HC Deb 17 June 2003 vol 407 cc125-6W
Mr. Caton

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what assessment the Department has made of the impact on African nations of giving tax relief for research on the development of beneficial drugs. [119187]

Hilary Benn

The UK Government is committed to significantly improving access to medicines in developing countries. We need to tackle all the factors affecting access if we are to make lasting improvements.

Those factors recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that can improve poor people's access to medicines are: affordable pricing, sustainable financing, reliable health and supply systems, and the rational selection and use of existing drugs.

Clare Short chaired a High Level Working Group on Increasing Access to Essential Medicines in the Developing World, which examined these issues in detail and made a series of recommendations for action in its report of November 2002. Officials across Whitehall are taking forward these recommendations with key stakeholders.

One recommendation was to encourage companies to increase research and development into medicines and vaccines for diseases prevalent in developing countries, namely TB, malaria and relevant strains of HIV/AIDS, taking forward implementation of the R&D tax credits announced in the Budget. The special tax relief for companies developing drugs and vaccines for TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS applies to expenditure incurred on or after 22 April 2003. As it is claimed by companies when they complete their tax returns, which they can submit up to 12 months after the end of the accounting period in question, the Inland Revenue do not yet have any information on claims.

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