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Vatican wants lower-priced medicines in developing countries

Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, has called for affordable pricing for medicines destined for Third World countries, and the promotion of research for products designed to cure illnesses specific to those countries.

He delivered his appeal at the 54th World Health Assembly held in Geneva in the past week.

In his address, Barragán affirmed that the Church recognises intellectual ownership of pharmaceutical patents, but on the condition that they respect international wellbeing.

The Church also has consistently taught that "there is a 'social mortgage' on all private property," he said.

Archbishop Barragán noted that "the 'social mortgage' which, as the Pope affirms, also weighs heavily on patents, must allow the lowering of medicine prices as well as those of all science and medical technology products."

The archbishop affirmed that it is necessary "to differentiate the price of pharmaceuticals destined for markets in industrialised countries from that in developing countries. It is also necessary to promote pharmaceutical research on lesser-known products or those destined for the cure of specific illnesses in developing countries."

"Furthermore," he said, "it is necessary to expand the list of generic medicines destined for the majority of the worldwide population, and to promote national legislation and international agreements in order to counter the monopoly of a few pharmaceutical industries and thus bring down prices, in particular, of products destined for developing countries. Finally, it would be necessary to promote agreements for the proper transfer of health-care technology to these countries."