Each year, 11 million people die from infectious diseases, many of them because they cannot afford basic medicines. Countless millions live with debilitating illnesses for the same reason. According to the World Health Organisation some 2 billion people lack access to basic healthcare – most of these people live in developing countries. There are many factors behind this exclusion, including levels of spending and the state of public health infrastructures – but the price of medicine matters. The poor communities with which Oxfam works consistently cite the high price of medicines as a major problem for them. Oxfam is concerned that strengthened World Trade Organisation (WTO) patent rules will drive up the price of new medicines (and new versions of existing medicines) which are already beyond the reach of millions of people in developing countries. Oxfam wants to see reform of the TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) agreement to ensure that global patent laws do not further diminish the ability of poor people to access essential medicines. We believe that world trade rules must place people’s health before short-term corporate self-interest.
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