G8 Offers the World an "Inaction Plan" on Health

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Evian, June 2, 2003 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today denounced the G8 Action Plan on Health, criticizing the deliberate sacrifice of solutions to increase access to essential medicines in favor of G8 political and commercial interests.

"Just to get a pat on the back from Bush, Chirac has sacrificed the right for millions of people to have access to medicines they need to survive. He abandoned his widely publicized commitment to improving access to life-saving medicines, and the rest of the G8 are merrily going along for the ride," said Dr. Jean-Hervé Bradol president of MSF in France.

"Today's inaction plan on health is a bitter pill to swallow for people in developing countries who know that, behind closed doors, the G8 are deliberately blocking access to affordable drugs in trade negotiations. Because of this, funding for health will find its way into the pockets of Western drug companies rather than contributing to long-term sustainable supplies of affordable medicines," said Dr. Bernard Pécoul, director of MSF's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.

The early draft of the Action Plan on Health prepared by France included concrete objectives to increase access to affordable generic drugs through implementation of the World Trade Organization's Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health; improve access to expensive brand name drugs through differential pricing; stimulate local production and technology transfer; and create sustainable long-term financing for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Additional recommendations were made to address the gap in research and development for neglected diseases. The only section of the Action Plan that shows determination is for SARS. Diseases that primarily affect poor people and occur in places of little consequence to the global economy are not treated with the same urgency.

"The G8 are betraying the Doha promise to deliver affordable drugs to meet public health needs and patients will continue to pay the price," said Ellen 't Hoen, Head of Policy & Research for MSF's Campaign. "It is clear that developing countries cannot rely on the G8 to protect the interests of poor populations."

On the final day of the G8 Summit, 3 June, MSF will present a public spectacle entitled "Disposable Lives" in Morzine, just outside of Evian, a dramatisation of patients in developing countries grasping for medicines just beyond their reach, and plunging to certain death. The exhibit symbolises the 19,000 lives that are lost each day to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, sleeping sickness, and kala azar, and draws critical attention to the fact that access to medicines 'dropped' off the G8 agenda.