Broken Promises: G8 Meeting and Access to Medicines

On June 8th, the Group of Eight industrialized nations will hold their annual summit on Sea Island, Georgia, in the United States. Every year the G8 makes promises in regards to addressing malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS and other diseases in developing countries, but concrete achievements are few.

At its 2000 summit in Okinawa, Japan, G8 countries promised to deliver on the following targets:

  • "Reduce the number of HIV/AIDS-infected young people by 25% by 2010";
  • "Reduce TB deaths and prevalence of the disease by 50% by 2010";
  • "Reduce the burden of disease associated with malaria by 50%";

Their statement stated that they would "implement an ambitious plan on infectious diseases, notably HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis" by, among other things:

  • "Working to make existing cost-effective interventions, including key drugs, vaccines, treatments and preventive measures more universally available and affordable in developing countries";
  • "Addressing the complex issue of access to medicines in developing countries, and assessing obstacles being faced by developing countries in that regard";
  • "Strengthening co-operation in the area of basic research and development on new drugs, vaccines and other international public health goods."

Those were optimistic times, and fine phrases - which have, for the most part, not been followed through with. Promises have not materialized into funding and support for programs designed to save lives.

Subsequent G8 summits have done nothing but water down those commitments. If anything, political will seems to have declined, rather than increased:

  • The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is starved for money.
  • The lack of research and development for neglected diseases such as sleeping sickness, kala azar, Chagas disease, malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS is not being addressed.
  • International action to make cheap, quality medicines available to patients in the developing world is being undermined by rich governments' stubborn protection of their pharmaceutical industries.
  • Developing countries are being coerced by certain G8 nations into signing trade agreements that restrict their access to affordable essential medicines.

MSF called on G8 nations to renew their commitments last year in Evian, France. Since then nothing has happened. Action would mean:

  • Fully funding the fight against major infectious diseases

    through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other financing mechanisms, ensuring that resources are spent wisely and in a coordinated fashion in order to treat the largest number of people possible with effective, affordable, and easy-to-use medicines;
  • Increasing research and development (R&D) into new essential medicines

    , diagnostics, and vaccines for neglected diseases such as sleeping sickness, kala azar, Chagas disease, malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS, alongside political and financial support for innovative global strategies to ensure needs-driven R&D;
  • Ensuring that public health needs are prioritized over commercial interests

    in international trade negotiations, including regional and bilateral free trade agreements, so that intellectual property no longer constitutes a barrier to access to medicines;
  • Making existing essential medicines affordable

    to those who need them by supporting an equity pricing system centered on generic competition, and by abandoning reliance on voluntary, ad hoc efforts to increase access to medicines, which do more to protect the interests of the pharmaceutical industry than the lives of people in developing countries.

In the past year:

  • three million people died of AIDS and five million were infected with HIV;
  • 2.5-3 million people died of tuberculosis and eight million became sick from it; and
  • 1-2 million people died of malaria and 300-500 million became sick from it.