Why the poor get bad drugs

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

While ur­gent ac­tion is needed to ad­dress the pub­lic health men­ace of sub­stan­dard and fal­si­fied med­i­cal prod­ucts, the Jan. 28 news ar­ti­cle “Fake drugs driv­ing Ugan­dans back to witch doc­tors” did not iden­tify the un­der­ly­ing causes or the ap­pro­pri­ate so­lu­tions to the prob­lem. Medicines of poor qual­ity con­tinue to pro­lif­er­ate be­cause nearly all im­pov­er­ished coun­tries have lit­tle or no ca­pac­ity to mon­i­tor the medicines im­ported into their coun­tries. In­vest­ments — of tech­ni­cal ca­pac­ity and money — are few and far be­tween from the wealthy world.

The U.S. trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive has made mat­ters worse by ne­go­ti­at­ing numer­ous trade agree­ments that have in­creased medicine prices in poor coun­tries by un­der­min­ing the sup­ply of low-cost generic medicines. Pa­tients of­ten buy fal­si­fied medicines be­cause they can­not af­ford to pay high prices for le­git­i­mate prod­ucts. As the trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive con­tin­ues to ex­port strict in­tel­lec­tual-prop­erty rules that in­crease medicine prices, many more poor peo­ple will turn to dan­ger­ous medicines and other forms of in­ad­e­quate health care.

Stephanie Bur­gos, Washington The writer is a pol­icy ad­viser at Ox­fam Amer­ica.

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