Sunday, January 27, 2013

A comment on International accountability for essential medicines.

There are many times when there are grey areas in human rights. For instance, what does the constitution of the United States REALLY say about gun laws, abortion, gay marriage, not any of these things are covered in detail as to how our current political setting should be addressed. However, some human rights, like access to essential medicines, which is denied by at least the 10 million people who die annually from preventable disease, is well defined by many international agreements while also not being followed due to international capitalism and neoliberal economic ideas that apply a price on the essential human right of healthcare.

When we talk about global health and access to medicines, everyone indisputably looks to the World Health Organization for answers as to how to handle things. Interestingly, they have released a small article highlighting multiple legal, international documents that put forth international law stating that Access to Essential Medicines is a human right!

Starting from the earliest, we have the very constitution of the World Health Organization adopted in 1946 and since signed upon by the 193 member countries (in 2010). The specific section worth mentioning is the "right to health" which reads "The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition."

The next is in the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 which states in Article 25, Section 1 "(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

There are of course more international agreements that state these things, including a general comment 14 issued in 2000 that details accessibility, quality, and appropriateness to goods and services deemed essential, including essential medicines as defined by WHO.

With all of these international, legally binding documents of which most nations including the United States have signed, how is it that the bottom billion people in the world, in terms of financial gain, still do not have access to most of the essential medications these terms have been talking about since 1946?

I would wager that it is due to our shift globally from individual economies based sometimes on public good, to an over-rampant consumerism. Someone along the way figured out we could make money off of the medications people desperately need, and our governments and regulatory agencies have agreed with them, after signing these types of declarations. My biggest question is, where do developed nations stand if they cannot even heed to the agreements they set forward and signed?


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