Governments restrict access to healthcare

Nearly 50 per cent of people in parts of Africa and Asia have no access to medicines due to harmful government policies including weak health infrastructure, taxes and tariffs, price controls and bureaucratic drug registration, says the Civil Society Report on Intellectual Property Innovation and Health, a study sponsored by 16 institutes form 13 countries.

Many examples of such interventions exist, says the Civil Society Report (CSR):

  • Taxes and tariffs of up to 55 per cent on imported medicines price people out of treatment, and costly registration requirements restrict the approval of American, European and Japanese medicines in most poor countries because manufacturers cannot justify the investment in registration.
  • Health insurance is hampered by government regulations, so the poor are unable to obtain insurance and are only able to pay for treatments if they have sufficient savings, or must rely on charity or meagre government healthcare provision.
  • Price controls – which proponents claim benefit the poor -- actually reduce the availability of drugs, especially in distant rural regions, by making it uneconomic for pharmacies to stock them; even in relatively wealthy South Africa, price controls have led to the closure of scores of rural pharmacies – leaving thousands of poor people without any access to medicines at all.
  • Inadequate protection for intellectual property in poor countries undermines incentives to invest in R&D for the diseases of poverty by making it more difficult to recover costs.

    Moreover, low pay and poor conditions at government run hospitals and clinics mean that a large number of trained medical professionals have immigrated to wealthier countries with better healthcare systems, says the CSR.

    Furthermore, governments in Africa and Asia must remove these taxes, tariffs and regulations, says the CSR; this is the only way to alleviate the problems and help the sick receive the much-needed treatments.

    Source: Editorial, Governments Restrict Access to Healthcare and Prevent Medicine Development: major new report, International Policy Network, March 28, 2006: based upon: Barun Mitra et al., Civil Society Report on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Health, International Policy Network, March 28, 2006.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 11 April 2006
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