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Taxed to Death
Bate points out that, of all the obstacles facing sick patients in poor countries, the cruelest may be the hurdles imposed by their own governments.
In the time it takes you to read this column at least 10 people in poor countries will die from diseases that are preventable and curable. Instead of improving access to critical medicines, many governments in those countries put up trade barriers that keep drugs out or make them too expensive. The USA, Singapore and Switzerland launched a drive this week to remove tariffs and help the people of developing nations get access to essential medicines. It may seem beyond belief, but certain domestic interests and finance ministries oppose this petition to the World Trade Organisation.
Indeed, many countries not only have high levies such as tariffs and value-added taxes on imported medical products, they also maintain onerous bureaucratic obstacles to registering and selling medicines, as exposed in Still Taxed to Death, a paper that two colleagues and I published this week.
Unfortunately, until the media and NGOs make domestic policies in poor nations more of an issue, those governments have little incentive to embrace patient-friendly reforms.
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