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Submitted by Drug Mark on
Perhaps even more alarming is the fact that while most illnesses - especially infectious diseases - are preventable or treatable with existing medicines, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1.7 billion people - nearly one-third of the world's population - have inadequate or no access to these essential medicines.3 Moreover, another study recently found that 10 million children a year die from preventable diseases and conditions, with almost all these deaths occurring in poor nations.4 Another study found that prompt diagnosis and treatment of health problems in Africa and Southeast Asia alone could save approximately 4 million lives each year.5 In addition, resistance to existing treatments due to improper use or over-exposure plays a significant role in increasing the severity of the public health crises in many nations.6 Other studies link health with the economic prosperity of nations and persuasively demonstrate the dramatic role the HIV/AIDS epidemic has played in the declining economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa.7 The consequences of the vicious cycle between poverty and illness are clear8 and the situation will become even more untenable unless the world comes together to resolve the public health crisis engulfing much of the developing world. Fortunately, and in large part due to the tireless efforts of several well-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs),9 health-related issues of developing countries, and more particularly the issue of accessibility to essential medicines, have garnered much worldwide attention in recent years.10 Unfortunately, public debate on the issue is most often limited to blaming the pharmaceutical industry and patent regulations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)11 for the lack of accessibility and affordability of much needed drugs in developing countries. While it may be 'in vogue' to attack the pharmaceutical industry, TRIPS and the WTO more generally,12 such attacks are usually simplistic, myopic and apart from adding little substance to the debate, they divert precious time and resources away from efforts that really count toward alleviating the suffering caused by the devastating health crisis. In reality,the impact of patents on public health is moot for many in the developing countries where inadequate healthcare and health infrastructure poses a much more immediate and significant problem. Put simply, patents do not even come into consideration if one cannot get a diagnosis by virtue of the fact that they do not have access to a doctor, or more accurately, a properly trained and equipped doctor.