Spotlight on Access to essential drugs
Why aren't poor countries getting the drugs they need, Victoria Nowak asks
You are in Malawi. A mother with a young child has made a long journey on foot to get to the nearest health centre. The child has tuberculosis and needs a course of antibiotics. But the clinic has run out. The nurse tells the mother to come back tomorrow. They have no medicine left today; the chance of there being any medicine tomorrow is small, perhaps nil.
The Commission for Africa, brought together by Tony Blair in 2004, identified the need for a predictable supply of affordable drugs and vaccines. A key recommendation was to give drug firms incentives to investigate diseases that affect Africa, where average spending on health per person in 2001 was no more than $21 (£11; €16).1 Just 10% of total spending on health research is on diseases that make up 90% of the global burden of disease.2 Drugs to be developed are chosen for possible