HL Deb 30 June 2004 vol 663 cc9-10WS
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos):

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Gareth Thomas) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses copies of the new UK Government paper Increasing access to essential medicines in the developing world: UK Government policy and plans. This paper is published by the Department for International Development (DfID) on behalf of seven government departments—the Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Her Majesty's Treasury, the Inland Revenue, the Patent Office and DfID. These departments worked together to deliver the paper.

The lack of access to essential medicines in developing countries is one of the most pressing global health issues. Tackling this could save millions of lives every year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that as many as 4 million lives could be saved each year in Africa and south-east Asia with improved access to medicines. However, while some encouraging progress has been made in recent years, there remains a limited supply of affordable medicines and inadequate health systems to deliver them in many developing countries, and a continuing shortage of new products to meet developing country health needs.

We have strengthened collaboration and policy coherence across government to address this issue and have jointly agreed next steps. These are outlined in the paper, and cover four areas:

  1. 1. Support to developing countries through the UK development assistance programme, with a focus on increasing poor people's access to health services;
  2. 2. Trade policy, focusing on supporting developing countries in understanding and making use of the flexibilities within World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules governing intellectual property;
  3. 3. Engagement with the business community, focusing on work with the pharmaceutical industry, to address the longer-term supply of affordable medicines to developing countries;
  4. 4. Efforts in the UK and internationally to stimulate increased research and development into new medicines and other healthcare products relevant to developing country health needs.

We will, for example: work with UK research institutions to establish a UK funders forum for health research relevant to developing country needs; monitor and evaluate the UK vaccines research relief, a tax credit for the research and development of products for HIV, TB and malaria; work with the pharmaceutical industry to develop a best practice framework, to support and encourage companies in their work to increase access to medicines; implement any necessary legislation within the UK (and EU) to facilitate export to developing countries under compulsory license, if requested, in line with the WTO General Council's decision of 30 August 2003.

Implementation of the paper will require continued collaboration across government. It will also require us to work in partnership with developing country governments, international agencies and donors, civil society, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, the broader private sector and the research community.