6 April 2001


NEW YORK, 5 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a statement today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Amsterdam, after meeting the leaders of six leading research-based pharmaceutical companies:

I met today in Amsterdam with the top executives from six leading multinational pharmaceutical companies, along with Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), and Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), to discuss what further steps can be taken by these companies to make care and treatment more accessible for people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries.

The way we have dealt with the needs of the developing world in recent years is simply not adequate. We need a radically different approach, and all sectors of society must be involved.

I called for this meeting because encouraging the active participation of all partners in the fight against AIDS has become my personal priority. The epidemic is the greatest public health challenge of our times, and we must harness the expertise of all sectors of society. The pharmaceutical industry is playing a crucial role. I would also want to applaud the contributions by non-governmental organizations, who are our vital partners in this fight. We need to combine incentive for research with access to medication for the poor.

Intellectual property protection is key to bringing forward new medicines, vaccines and diagnostics urgently needed for the health of the world's poorest people. The United Nations fully supports the TRIPS agreement -- including the safeguards incorporated within it.

However, the solution does not lie with the pharmaceutical companies alone. I am calling for a major mobilization -- of political will and significant additional funding -- to enable a dramatic leap forward in prevention, education, care and treatment.

I am pleased to tell you that the companies have today agreed to do the following:

First, to continue and accelerate reducing prices substantially, with a special emphasis on the least developed countries, particularly those in Africa;

Second, to continue to offer affordable medicines to other developing countries, on a country-by-country basis; and

Third, to recognize the need to consider increased access to HIV/AIDS medicine to qualified non-governmental organizations and appropriate private companies offering health care to employees and local communities in these nations.

Today's commitments consolidate, and go beyond, the progress which individual companies had made in reducing prices since last May, when five of them signed a Joint Statement of Intent with the United Nations. This represents a contribution to the global response to the epidemic, going much further than any of us could have predicted 12 months ago.

At the same time, we must not forget that the price of drugs is only one of the issues that has to be addressed in improving the quality of care and treatment for HIV/AIDS affected people in the developing world. Drugs can only work if they form part of a comprehensive approach, which runs from voluntary counselling and testing to home and community-based care, and simple treatments for opportunistic infections. And, of course, our highest priority must still be to ensure that fewer people become infected with HIV in the first place.

None of these things can be achieved without spending a lot more money. In the next few months, leading up to the special session of the General Assembly at the end of June, the United Nations will be working overtime to mobilize increased resources for all aspects of the struggle against HIV/AIDS, and for better health care in developing countries.

* *** *