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Patents and access to drugs

© Roger Anis

Obtaining treatment is today more like a privilege of the rich than a matter of course for all. Despite the major medical and technological advances of recent decades, millions of people in developing countries are dying of treatable diseases every year for lack of access to treatment and drugs. This is a scandal for which the Swiss pharmaceutical industry with the complicity of the Swiss authorities share responsibility.

  • More than two billion people in the world have no access to essential drugs.
  • The lack of access to medicines has historically been a poor country issue, but in the last few years it has become a worldwide problem as even high income countries are starting to encounter major barriers to guarantee universal access to medicines.
  • 80% of deaths related to non-communicable chronic illnesses, such as cancer or diabetes, occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Infectious diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria are predominant in the countries of the Global South and East.
  • Patents increase the price of drugs, which are unaffordable for the majority of the populations of the countries of the South.
  • Patents delay the arrival on the market of cheaper (bio)generic drugs on which the disadvantaged countries and populations depend.
  • The high-income countries and their pharmaceutical companies exert constant pressure to strengthen the level of protection of intellectual property of the medicines, beyond the international standards of the WTO.
  • The Swiss companies Roche and Novartis are among the largest pharmaceutical multinationals in the world.
  • Roche and Novartis are regularly singled out for their anti-competitive practices and lack of transparency.