The law and ethics of access to medicines in developing countries

Authored by: Paul Ogendi , Peter Munyi

Routledge Handbook of Medical Law and Ethics

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415628181
eBook ISBN: 9780203796184
Adobe ISBN: 9781134448654


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Lack of access to essential medicines has led to untold suffering and loss of many lives, particularly in developing countries (Yamin 2003), and was rightly termed by Yamin as a ‘horrific injustice’ (2003: 370). Notwithstanding this, the World Medicines Situation report continues to identify inequality and discrimination in access to essential medicines as the key public health challenge of our time (Hogerzeil and Mirza: 2011). The situation is exacerbated by the increasing demands for existing and new medications to mitigate the HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria burden in developing countries. Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates about one-third of the world’s population lacks access to essential medicines (Hogerzeil and Mirza 2011: 1; UN Human Rights Council 2011: 4). In some areas, the figures project that more than 100 million people endure high financial burdens to fund their healthcare due to high costs (UN Human Rights Council 2011: 4). In developing countries, patients pay approximately 50 to 90 per cent of the cost of medicines, while 20 to 60 per cent of these costs are accounted for in the country’s healthcare budget (UN Human Rights Council 2011: 4). Therefore, increasing access to affordable medicines in resource-poor settings and finding new ways to promote the development of new medicines and vaccines to treat diseases of the poor remain a top priority (Leach et al. 2005).

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