By Nicole Hassoun, Binghamton University, State University of New York
The World Health Organization reports that a third of the world’s population cannot access important medicines for some of the world’s most devastating diseases, like malaria and tuberculosis.
There are many reasons these drugs are out of reach of so many people, but the fact that few medicines to treat diseases like malaria and tuberculosis are developed and that the prices are high for the drugs that are developed are major factors.
I study ethics and work on questions about the obligations of pharmaceutical companies, and I believe that these companies have a moral and legal obligation to ensure access to essential medicines.
The legal human right to health is embodied in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It states that everyone has a right “to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.“ This right is essential for protecting individuals’ ability to live minimally good lives.
When companies set high prices, lobby to extend patent protections on important medicines and do not develop enough new drugs for neglected diseases, they fail to live up to these obligations. [Read more…]