"Silent pandemic" will force drug price rethink

Source : http://www.reuters.com

January 20,2010 - LONDON (Reuters) - A "silent pandemic" of chronic disease is creeping up on poor countries and will force pharmaceutical firms to take a more tiered approach to pricing some of their most lucrative medicines.

Drugs for diseases which were previously dominant only in the rich, well-fed world, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, are increasingly in demand in poorer nations in Asia and Africa, whose populations are now living longer.

But the price of many of these medicines and their unsuitability for emerging markets are high barriers to access.

And yet unless those hurdles are overcome, experts say, chronic diseases could swamp developing health systems and kill many millions -- and the hopes of drugmakers like GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Sanofi-Aventis of supplying vast new markets in emerging economies will struggle to come to fruition.

Discounting prices for poorer countries, a move already made by some big drug firms, is a start. But pharmaceutical bosses will also be under pressure to join patent pools to promote downward price pressure on drugs for major chronic diseases by increasing the number of producers, and may face legal challenges to force them to allow in more generic competition.

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