Missing Medicines

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We could end AIDS and tuberculosis, the biggest killer of people living with HIV, by 2030 but we are missing some essential tools.

Here’s why.

Right now the system we have created to develop medicines is  essentially flawed. Medical research is not currently prioritised according to health need but according to the profit that stands to be made. This leads to three major problems:

1) Diseases affecting the developing world  – big pharma like to make big profits, so they spend their time and money developing medicines that they can sell for as much as possible in the US and Europe. Even though they kills millions of people every year, diseases like TB just don’t get a look in. But we also have a crisis around the need for new antibiotics, because new regulations state that Doctors can’t prescribe antibioticis as much as they did previously – so there wont be as much profit for Pharma.

2) Medicines are priced out of reach– when useful drugs are developed the patent monopoly means companies can charge whatever the like. And usually that means a price much higher than people and governments can afford. This is also a problem for us in the UK – breast Cancer drug for instance can cost £90,000 per person.

3) We waste precious research money – this whole system means companies don’t share information, more research goes on safe bets – copying existing drugs rather than solving unsolved problems, and public investment in research gets forgotten when companies take it over. It is really inefficient!


In the last 50 years we’ve had 14 new treatments for hay fever but only two for tuberculosis. TB kills 1.5 million people a year. Hay fever kills none.

Drug resistant TB – If you are resistant to first-line TB medication you have to take second-line drugs. The treatment lasts 2 years and includes daily injections and thousands of pills each year which have horrible side-effects including nausea, psychosis and permanent deafness.

HIV in children – Over 90% of children living with HIV in Africa. Poor African children are not a very profitable market so we have a shortage of child-friendly HIV treatment. Without treatment, half of children living with HIV will die before their second birthday.

Hepatitis C – We have a great new lifesaving hepatitis C drug called sofosbuvir. The drug company, Gilead, who own the drug marketed the drug at $1000 per pill. Although there have now been some price reductions (thanks to effective campaigning!) in select countries, the majority of people needing access to sofosbuvir still can’t get it.



The World Health Organisation (WHO) created the Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) to seek solutions. They recommended a package of reforms that would seek to:

Introduce alternative incentives to producing new medicines such as cash prizes and reduce the use of 20 year patent monopolies

Prioritise health research according to need rather than profit by having WHO member states decide which areas require the biggest share of R&D investment

Establish a pooled fund for R&D financed by countries contributing 0.01% of GDP to ensure the R&D burden is shared

These reforms should be realised through a new, legally-binding global framework – a bit like the framework for Human Rights –  called The R&D Agreement.


STOPAIDS sees the meeting organised by WHO set to take place in March 2015 as an historic opportunity to reach an agreement on these reforms. We will:

Lobby the UK Government to support the plan for The R&D Agreement at the WHO meeting. This includes in-person meetings, letter writing and creative action aimed at MPs and MEPs. Find a guide for how to do this here

Campaign to raise public awareness of the “Missing Medicines” problem. This includes local action, social media initiatives and a petition.

Sign our petition for R&D reform here

pread the word on FACEBOOK and TWITTER about the #MissingMedicines campaign, check out our social media guide here

Sign up to the #Missing Medicines newsletter for info on our next direct action also

Missing Medicines Campaign

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