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MSF Calls on Davos Leaders to Stop People Dying of Market Failure

Business CEO's & Politicians Must Take Action to Re-start R & D

January 27, 2000 Geneva/New York — As the world's business and political leaders gather in Davos to discuss their visions for the year 2000 and beyond, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières called for concerted action to ensure access to essential medicines for those most in need.

Research has ground to a standstill for leading global killers like tuberculosis(TB) and malaria, while market investment is leading to progress in fighting cancer, heart disease and lifestyle diseases such as obesity and impotence.

"It is ironic that as the world's rich and powerful gather at Davos in what used to be a sanitorium for wealthy TB patients, there is little, if any, research or development for TB, which is today a poor man's disease," said Dr. James Orbinski, International Council President of Doctors Without Borders.

Dr. Orbinski added: "Worldwide, nearly 10,000 people die every day of TB, and 95% of these deaths occur in the developing world. There is little, if any, new research and development for new TB medicines. Because the poor are not a viable consumer market, the disease is not profitable. Poor people are dying of market failure. This must change."

In Davos, as in Seattle, the organization called for new and innovative approaches to stimulating R&D for essential medicines. "Multinational pharmaceutical companies have failed to find new treatments for communicable diseases. National governments must intervene" Dr. Orbinski concluded. This must include government regulated obligations that are compulsory, such as requirements that companies reinvest a percentage of pharmaceutical sales into R&D for neglected priority diseases, either directly or through public or private sector R&D programs.

People die of infectious diseases like AIDS, TB and African sleeping sickness partly because life-saving essential medicines are too expensive due to patent protection; also, essential medicines are sometimes unavailable because industry does not consider them financially viable, or because there is virtually no new R&D for priority infectious diseases.