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Doctors Without Borders fights to provide affordable medicines

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By Ashok Ramsarup :: The international medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has expressed growing concern over access to affordable medicines, vaccines and diagnostics as it observes two decades in providing health care to disadvantaged communities around the world.

MSF, which launched the Access Campaign in 1999 during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, reflects on the working machinery to provide lifesaving drugs to fight the chronic disease into a manageable condition.  But HIV medication still cannot reach the needy and desperate in developing countries.

In marking 20 years of health care, MSF highlighted the challenges facing countries as more needs to be done in the field of medical innovation and access for all people in need of life-saving medication.

While MSF continues to reach out to countries, the medical staff lacked adequate treatments for several neglected diseases, including  tuberculosis, malaria and African sleeping sickness, because pharmaceutical giants did not consider it profitable enough to develop drugs for people who could not afford to pay high prices.

MSF which is making concerted efforts to save lives, the Access Campaign is desperately trying to overcome barriers in bringing down prices and encouraging research into improved treatment options.

MSF said: “Their desperate fight to pharmaceutical giants is paying off as they’re able to drastically reduce HIV medicines by more than 99 percent, from over  US$10 000 to treat one person for one year in 2000 to less than 100 dollars per year today.

The humanitarian organisation said by breaking down corporate monopolies affordable generic drugs were now available in India.  In its ACT Now campaign, countries urged to provide artemisinin-based combination therapy that became effective in many African countries by 2008.

In 2003, MSF which co-founded the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative was able help in securing treatments for  malaria, paediatric HIV, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, and sleeping sickness, as well as all-oral sleeping sickness treatment fexinidazole for neglected patients.

MSF’s Access Campaign Executive Director Dr Els Torreelesaid the medical innovation and access crisis was now becoming increasingly global, with people in developing and developed countries alike experiencing similar challenges.

Dr Torreele said: “It was important to acknowledge the way drugs were manufactured and sold today.  Patients need to obtain medicines at affordable prices, urging governments and the research community to stand up to find solutions to problem that is sweeping countries globally.”

Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa 🇿🇦 

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