Australian Government must speak up against unscrupulous ?big pharma? whose actions cost lives, warns Oxfam Australia

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 18 Jul 2007

As a major international conference on AIDS opens this week in Sydney, Oxfam is urging the Australian Government to help guarantee the supply of affordable drugs to combat HIV & AIDS in the world’s poorest countries.
‘As a good global citizen, Australia can help save lives by ensuring the nation’s aid dollars are spent efficiently on low-cost generic HIV/AIDS drugs,’ said Andrew Hewett, Executive Director of Oxfam Australia.
The Australian Government has rightly committed $600 million over four years to treat as well as prevent HIV and AIDS in the Asia Pacific region. But some of this investment could be undermined by the actions of ‘big pharma’ whose unwillingness to make anti-retro viral drugs affordable in some developing countries has undoubtedly cost lives.

‘Some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies have worked to prevent developing countries from reducing the price of high-cost medicines,’ said Mr Hewett. ‘In some cases ‘big pharma’ has put profits before lives.’
In Thailand for example where the government has saved at least 80,000 lives as a result of government sponsored and affordable anti-retroviral medicines, some pharmaceutical companies increased the price of their drugs beyond the reach of poor people. In one instance, Abbott Pharmaceutical withdrew from the Thai market a number of life saving medicines in response to the Thai Government’s decision to issue a compulsory license to import or produce generic medicine, which would have resulted in lives being saved.
In the end though Abbott Pharmaceutical capitulated and reduced the price of some of its drugs. But not before the lives of some of the world’s poorest people were put at risk due to the actions of ‘big pharma.’
In such cases, Oxfam Australia believe that responsible governments such as our own have a responsibility to speak out in support of the world’s poorest countries who are simply trying to protect the lives of vulnerable people.
‘Australia must act to prevent lives being lost due to the selfish actions of some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies,’ said Mr Hewett. ‘Preventing unnecessary suffering and death due to HIV & AIDS is humane but it can also help lift millions of people out of poverty.’
For more information or to arrange an interview with Andrew Hewett call Ian Woolverton on 0409 181 454