Patents and access to medication

© Stephan Elleringmann/Keystone
According to the UN, more than two billion people worldwide have no access to essential medicines. Receiving medical care today seems to be more a privilege of the rich than a basic right for everyone.

While formerly the developing or emergent countries were primarily confronted with infectious diseases – such as AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis – they now carry a “double burden”: they have more deaths from non-transmissible diseases than the rich countries. Access to treatments for cancer and diabetes today represent one of the principal issues for poorer countries.

Moreover, the lack of access to essential medication is no longer confined to developing and emergent countries: today, it also seriously affects rich countries like Switzerland. Governments are powerless faced with the all-powerful pharma giants. They are not able to reduce significantly the outrageous cost of new treatments – in particular for cancer – and this endangers the principle of universal coverage by restrictions on reimbursement, or even by rationing.