HL Deb 06 March 2001 vol 623 cc23-4WA
Lord Judd

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to encourage drugs companies to set prices of patented medicines in developing countries at levels that reflect social need and the ability of people to pay. [HL783]

Baroness Amos

Affordable prices are a key component of strategies to improve access to essential medicines in developing countries. The Government believe that negotiations with, and providing increased incentives to, the pharmaceutical industry will have a greater impact on prices and access than reducing patent life (which may have a negative impact on research and development investment). At the International Action Against Child Poverty Conference (February 26), the Government announced a proposal for a new and innovative global purchase fund for drugs and vaccines. This will increase access by providing a strong incentive to the pharmaceutical industry to deliver affordable medicines. We are considering a range of policy options with the industry, including tiered pricing agreements (selling drugs more cheaply in poor countries), tax measures including tax credits, and common purchase funds.

The Government are already contributing to international partnerships between the public and private sectors, which results in reduced prices in developing countries. The Government also welcome the Accelerating Access to HIV/AIDS-related Care and Treatment Initiative. This partnership between UNAIDS and a group of pharmaceutical companies is reducing the cost of anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS in developing countries. This is a useful first step, although more needs to be done in terms of transparency and further price discounts. The price of drugs is one component of access. The Government also continue to work with developing country governments to strengthen basic health systems, without which the poorest will be unable to access the necessary drugs.