Access to medicines - key international standards

Below are select introductory materials on business and access to medicines.  Further reports from a wide range of sources are in the "Access to medicines" section of this site.

Key international standards

Universal Declaration of Human Rights: article 25

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: article 12

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: General Comment 14: articles 12.2 (c) and 12.2 (d)

Key reports & guidance

Human rights guidelines for pharmaceutical companies in relation to access to medicines: The sexual and reproductive health context [PDF], Rajat Khosla and Paul Hunt, University of Essex, Mar 2009. 

Investing for life - Meeting poor people’s needs for access to medicines through responsible business practices, Oxfam, Nov 2007

Patents, compulsory license and access to medicines: some recent experiences [DOC], Martin Khor, Third World Network, Feb 2007

Corporate responsibilities for access to medicines [PDF], Klaus Leisinger, Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, Apr 2008

Ending the R&D crisis in public health: Promoting pro-poor medical innovation, Oxfam, Nov 2008

New ILO report says HIV/AIDS epidemic costing more than 1 million new jobs per year - Says workplace should become major entry point for prevention and access to treatment, International Labour Organisation, Dec 2006 [También disponible en español] [Aussi disponible en français]

New Report: Top pharma companies fail to address industry best practices on HIV/AIDS, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, Aug 2006

Public health, innovation and intellectual property rights, Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation & Public Health, World Health Organization (WHO), Apr 2006 [También disponible en español] [Aussi disponible en français]

Concerns, company responses & non-responses

The Resource Centre invites companies to respond to allegations of misconduct.  Below are examples of allegations and company responses regarding access to medicines.  We also indicate when a company has not responded.

Global: Oxfam report "Investing for Life" says drug companies not doing enough to provide access to medicines for the poor - makes recommendations for "responsible business practices", Dec 2007.  Responses from Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, sanofi-aventis.  No response received from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Roche, Wyeth.

Global: Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility report says Abbott Labs faces risks over access to medicines - recommends adopting human rights-based approach, May 2007.  Response from Abbott Laboratories.

Global: Physicians for Social Justice (Nigeria) says companies’ responses to Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility report are a “cover” for their insufficient action to ensure access to essential medicines, Nov 2006. Response from Novartis. No response received from Abbott Laboratories, Pfizer.

Global: Médecins Sans Frontières says prices of essential new AIDS drugs in developing countries are too high, June 2005. Responses from GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Abbott Laboratories. No response received from Gilead Sciences.

Guatemala: Bristol-Myers Squibb supports intellectual property legislation that HIV/AIDS patients & NGOs such as Oxfam warn will restrict access to HIV/AIDS medicines, Apr 2005. Response from Bristol-Myers Squibb. [También disponible en español]

Positive steps by companies

Global: GlaxoSmithKline partners with World Health Organization to fight H1N1 flu in poorest countries – will donate 50 million doses of vaccine. [Aussi disponible en français].

Global: Cipla, IPCA Labs, Calyx, Mangalam Drugs, Holleypharm, PIDI Standard sign pact with Clinton Foundation to provide low-priced malaria drugs.

Global: Gilead offers trade secrets to generic firms to help them make AIDS drug more cheaply.

Global: GlaxoSmithKline CEO pledges major new initiative to cut prices of medicines for the poor - challenges other firms to follow suit. Inc. reactions by Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières, others. 

Global: Merck Sharp & Dohme programme to donate Mectizan prevents more than 40,000 cases of trypanosomiasis per year in Africa & Latin America – large-scale public-private partnership with more than 30 governments, 13 NGOs. [French only].

Latin America: 26 pharmaceutical firms, including Merck, agree with governments of 11 Latin American countries on price reductions of up to 66% for anti-HIV/AIDS drugs. 

Burkina Faso: Pfizer, Merck & Glaxo donate $450 million in medicines for neglected tropical diseases. [Aussi disponible en français].

India: Gilead enters into generic licensing deals with 10 Indian pharma firms to distribute its HIV drug Viread, says this will drive down prices - patient groups & NGOs welcome move.

Rwanda: GlaxoSmithKline agrees to generic production of AIDS drugs for Rwanda - first use of Canadian regime seeking to ease production of cheap drugs for poor countries.

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Related stories and components

10 November 2009
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Author: Service d'information des Nations Unies

La multinationale pharmaceutique britannique GlaxoSmithKline a promis à l'Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS) 50 millions de doses vaccins contre la grippe H1N1 à destination des pays en voie de développement. « Nous nous félicitons de cette très...

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10 November 2009

UN health agency set to receive 50 million H1N1 vaccines for developing countries

Author: UN News

A giant pharmaceutical company is slated to donate 50 million doses of the pandemic H1N1 vaccine to the United Nations public health arm, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today. Under a new agreement signed with GlaxoSmithKline, WHO...

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19 May 2009
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Author: Destination santé

Lancé en 1987, le programme de donation Mectizan pour le traitement des trypanosomiases, respectivement l’onchocercose en Afrique et la maladie de Chagas en Amérique latine, est un cas d’école. Plus de 530 millions de traitements ont en effet déjà été...

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22 February 2009

Gilead’s model to enhance availability of anti-AIDS drug [India]

Author: Murali Krishnan, Sindh Today

American bio-pharmaceutical major Gilead, that has entered into generic licensing deals with 10 Indian pharma firms to distribute its HIV drug Viread, is all set to roll out its key anti-AIDS drugs at affordable prices in India and 94 other resource...

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13 February 2009

Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline pledges cheap medicine for world's poor

Author: Sarah Boseley, Guardian [UK]

The world's second biggest pharmaceutical company is to radically shift its attitude to providing cheap drugs to millions of people in the developing world. In a major change of strategy, the new head of GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty, has [said] he...

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1 August 2008

Abbott Agrees To Settle Lawsuit Over Price of Antiretroviral Norvir [USA]

Author: Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report [USA]

Abbott Laboratories...agreed to...settle an antitrust lawsuit filed by HIV/AIDS advocates and other drug companies over an increase in the price of the company's antiretroviral drug Norvir…Abbott in December 2003 quadrupled the per-patient wholesale...

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18 July 2008

Indian firms, Clinton Foundation sign deal on malaria drugs

Author: Indo Asian News Service

Four Indian and two Chinese companies will cut the price of a key malaria drug and control rates of a vital ingredient following a pact signed Thursday with the US-based Clinton Foundation…The Indian companies are generic drug firms Cipla and IPCA...

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27 June 2008

Brazil NGO opposes Gilead`s AIDS drug patent

Author: Business Standard [India]

The Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) has joined Indian patient groups in opposing a patent application for Tenofovir (commonly known as Viread), a key AIDS drug marketed by Gilead Sciences in...

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1 February 2008
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Author: IRIN - Nouvelles & analyses humanitaires de l'ONU, Bureau pour la coordination des affaires humanitaires

Plusieurs firmes pharmaceutiques se sont engagées à fournir au Burkina Faso des lots de médicaments d’une valeur de quelque 450 millions de dollars américains pour lutter contre certaines maladies « négligées », responsables de la cécité ou d’autres...

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30 January 2008

Burkina Faso: Some $450 million in medicines for “neglected” diseases

Author: IRIN News (Integrated Regional Information Networks), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Pharmaceutical companies have pledged some US$450 million worth of medicines to Burkina Faso to fight “neglected” diseases that blind or otherwise debilitate millions of people in the country, according to the health minister... The nationwide...

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