Crisis threatens access to cheap drugs

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Geneva-based UNITAID urges innovative financing to continue aiding poor countries.

GENEVA - The global financial crisis is threatening access to cheaper medication for people in developing countries, the head of UNITAID, an international drug purchase facility, warned Monday.

Former French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, who heads the Geneva-based organisation, told AFP it is necessary to "react very quickly with innovative financing" to continue sending aid to poor countries.

Around 70 percent of UNITAID's income comes from a tax on airline tickets, which was implemented by seven of the organisation's 29 members including France and South Korea.

The tax ranges from USD 1 (CHF 1.11, EUR 0.79) for an economy class ticket to USD 10 for business and USD 40 for first class, according to UNITAID's website.

UNITAID was established to increase access for poor people to treatment for AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Douste-Blazy, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special advisor on innovative financing, added that the UN Millennium Development Goals still needed USD 50 billion of the USD 150 billion it requires annually to end poverty, malnutrition and disease.

"We have found 100 billion (but) we need to find more financing," he said.

Ban will chair a meeting on innovative financing during the World Health Assembly in Geneva on Tuesday.

AFP / Expatica

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