Press release |

G8 must stop putting self-interest before lives of millions

Annemasse, 31 May 2003 — G8 leaders at Evian must face up to their failure to fight infectious diseases. “Millions are dying every year because of lack of access to medicines. We know what needs to be done, we have the resources, and we know how much it costs. But the political will isn’t there” says Dr Bernard Pécoul, Director of Médecins Sans Frontières’ Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.

For the last three years the G8 have made promises that are not met, while the health crisis in developing countries has worsened. The number of HIV-infected children has almost tripled in the last three years; the number of children dying of malaria has increased five-fold in parts of Africa in this period. “G8 governments are not coming up with the money, and their policies actively prevent efforts to increase access to affordable medicines – instead of encouraging access to affordable medicines, they defend the profits of their pharmaceutical industries,” says Dr Pécoul.

In the run up to the G8, health commitments have been pushed off the G8 agenda; discussions on ways to increase access to affordable medicines and research and development into neglected diseases have been severely curtailed.

The G8 must work to increase research and development for drugs for neglected diseases such as sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis and Chagas disease. These diseases cause enormous suffering and death, but doctors have little or nothing to offer patients. Even for tuberculosis and malaria which together kill four million people every year, doctors are forced to use drugs that are over 30-years old and increasingly ineffective. G8 leaders must also help countries to replace older, ineffective medicines with more effective ones. Two million people die of malaria every year, 90% of which are in Africa. Most African countries need financial support to switch from old ineffective drugs to newer, but more expensive artemisinin-based drug combinations. It would cost the international community US$ 200 million a year to fund the switch to the more effective drugs, but donors are not coming up with the money. Lack of donor commitment also means that The Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is almost bankrupt.

Developing country leaders must also meet their duties. Five million people in South Africa have AIDS, but President Mbeki who is present at the G8, continues to refuse to provide treatment. “Mbeki should learn from the presence of Brazils’ president da Silva, where AIDS treatment is available to all in need,” said Dr Jean-Hervé Bradol, president of MSF in France. Brazil’s progressive policy of producing generic antiretrovirals has reduced treatment costs massively. AIDS death rates have been cut in half, and the health system is making an overall saving in avoided illness.

As part of the MSF’s campaign to increase access to essential medicines, the aid agencies has organised a public event “Lives in the Balance” a visual event that symbolises the urgency of the situation. This exhibit will be at Annemasse on 31 May at the Aerodrome (meeting point). MSF doctors and field volunteers will be present at the event and available for comment. This exhibit will also be held between Annemasse and Evian on the 2 May.