Merck – Implement a Policy to Provide Affordable Drugs to HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria Patients in Africa (2001 – 2002)

Outcome: Successfully Withdrawn

The HIV/Aids epidemic constitutes a global emergency – one of the most formidable challenges to human life and dignity as well as to the effective enjoyment of human rights;
By the end of the year 2000, 36.1 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS, 90% in developing countries and 75 % in sub-Sahara Africa;
All are affected by this epidemic, but people in developing countries are the most affected, and women, young adults and children, particularly girls, are the most vulnerable;
African Heads of Governments have pledged to target at least 15% of their annual national budgets to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Actions to reach this target will need to be complemented by international assistance;
Tuberculosis is now the world’s leading infectious killer, taking 2 million lives a year, and is a frequent complication of AIDS. Malaria causes 1.1 million deaths annually. Both diseases are growing more difficult to treat because of the spread of drug-resistant strains;
Access to medication in the context of such pandemics is a fundamental element of achieving physical and mental health;
Effective prevention, care and treatment strategies will require increased availability of, and non-discriminatory access to, vaccines, sterile injecting equipment, drugs, including anti-retroviral therapy, diagnostics and related technologies, as well as increased research and development;
Availability and affordability of drugs and related technology are factors to be reviewed and addressed. There is need to reduce the cost of these drugs and technologies;
Some countries within the most seriously affected regions have begun to promote innovation and the development of domestic industries in order to increase access to medicines to protect the people’s health;
The impact of international trade agreements on access to or local manufacturing of, essential drugs and on the development of new drugs needs to be evaluated;
Shareholders request the Board of Directors to develop and implement a policy to provide pharmaceuticals for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria in ways that the majority of infected persons in African nations can afford.
A report of the development and implementation of such a policy (omitting proprietary information and at reasonable cost) would be sent to shareholders six months after the 2002 annual meeting.
Pharmaceutical companies have the unique mission to provide health-giving medicines, often making the difference between life and death. This is the time for pharmaceutical companies to offer the kind of leadership necessary to address diseases that afflict so many people throughout the world, especially in African countries. “Making life-saving medicines more affordable for poor countries is vital for improving public health. More importantly, it is realistic.” (Press Release, WHO/WTO Workshop – Pricing/Financing of Essential Drugs, April 11, 2001)
One way to make needed drugs accessible and affordable is to grant voluntary licenses to African countries which request them. This would enable the production of generic drugs for prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Improved access to effective and affordable medicines is essential for the people’s health in these nations.

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