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Drug Snares: Tariffs Take Their Toll in Poor Nations
Authors Bate and Boateng report on the effects of drug tariffs on medicinal access in developing nations. They argue that these tariffs keep valuable medicines out of the hands of desperate patients while funding corrupt bureaucracies. They call for the international community to push for the elimination of drug tariffs to help the world's poorest citizens gain access to critical medical treatments.
The burden caused by high and frequently altered tariff rates creates an opportunity for public officials to extract bribes; since local officials often have asymmetric knowledge about what is a correct fee, as well as the authority to charge it locally, this allows them all sorts of leverage, such as allowing them opportunities to waive official fees if paid a bribe. Also, random or capricious intervention by customs officials makes criminals of importers by often leaving them little choice but to pay bribes to avoid delays, especially where goods with short shelf lives (for example, antibiotics that need refrigeration) are concerned. Such corruption contributes to the instability of access to medicines in a country. Clearly, the corrupting influence of tariffs is detrimental to any ongoing efforts to improve health in a nation.
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