Soigner les pauvres

CAMBRIDGE - La polémique sur le prix des médicaments et le droit de propriété intellectuelle bat son plein. Beaucoup de médicaments susceptibles de sauver des vies, en particulier ceux qui servent à combattre le sida sont fabriqués sous brevet, essentiellement par des laboratoires américains et européens. Le prix de vente des médicaments protégés par un brevet les rend le plus souvent inaccessibles aux pauvres des pays pauvres. Alors que dans les pays riches beaucoup de malades du sida sont maintenus en vie grâce à ces médicaments, dans les pays pauvres des millions de personnes meurent bien avant l'heure, laissant derrière eux la misère, une situation économique catastrophique et des millions d'orphelins.

Dans les pays riches, le traitement du sida revient en moyenne à dix mille dollars par an et par malade alors que le coût de production des médicaments utilisés est bien inférieur, de 350 à 500 dollars pour certains traitements par trithérapie. Des fabricants sérieux de médicaments génériques, tel Cipla aux Indes, ont proposé de mettre à disposition ces médicaments à un prix voisin de leur prix de revient. Pour réagir à cette offre (et à la contre-publicité qu'elle leur faisait), les laboratoires Merck, Abbott et Bristol Myers Squibb, trois grandes compagnies détentrices de brevets, ont annoncé leur intention de fournir le marché africain à prix coûtant, soit environ 500 dollars par malade et par an pour le traitement du sida.

La tragédie que constituent des millions de pauvres en train de mourir du sida alors qu'il y a des médicaments soulève des questions importantes sur le droit de propriété intellectuelle, car la protection par brevet d'un médicament le rend inaccessible aux plus démunis de la planète. Comment allier les avantages du brevet qui constitue une incitation à l'innovation et à la recherche, avec l'accès des plus pauvres aux traitements médicaux dont ils ont désespérément besoin ?

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