UNCTAD X: Thai call for self reliance on drug production

UNCTAD X Minister calls for drug self-reliance To curb dependency on costly imports

Nusara Thaitawat and Aphaluck Bhatiasevi Health Minister Korn Dabbaransi yesterday called on developing countries' pharmaceutical industries to co-operate to produce quality drugs at affordable prices in order to reduce dependency on imports. He also called for an international public fund to be established to support research and development of new drugs for the poor. Mr Korn made his statement at the opening of a two-day Buyers-Sellers Meeting on Pharmaceuticals organised by the Geneva-based International Trade Centre.

The event was part of the 10th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

"We need to work together more closely to sustain our long term self-reliance for good quality low cost drugs."He said collaboration in the production and sale of pharmaceutical raw materials and generic drugs, and the improvement of drug quality in developing countries were important strategies to reduce dependence on imports. Other strategies were to rationalise drug use and improve efficiency in drug procurement, he said.

On the international public fund, Mr Korn pointed out that multinational pharmaceutical companies concentrated their resources on drugs for the rich, such as cardiovascular and psychological diseases whereas very few drugs had been developed for diseases prevalent in poor countries.

He said the world drug market amounted to about US$300 billion per year. "If one percent of this amount is earmarked for this public fund, we would get $3 billion per year, enough for the development of at least three-to-five new drugs for the poor," he said.

Denis Belisle, executive director of ITC said Southeast Asian countries represented at the meeting imported around $4 billion worth of pharmaceuticals last year-of which 80% originated outside the region. He said the 80% import figure did not mean the region did not have the ability to supply drugs. There are an estimated 5,000 small, medium-sized and large enterprises formulating and manufacturing drugs, though many operate below capacity, he said.

Mr Belisle said the region needed to overcome the outdated perception that locally manufactured drugs were of a substandard quality, as adequate quality control mechanisms were in place in most countries.

Source: MSF-Drugs Bangkok msfdrugs@asianet.co.th
            Sun, 13 Feb 2000