Global Health Disparity and Pharmaceutical Companies’ Obligation to Assist

In Dien Ho (ed.), Philosophical Issues in Pharmaceutics: Development, Dispensing, and Use. Springer (2017)
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Abstract

This chapter critically explores the extent to which pharmaceutical companies have a moral obligation to assist poor patients in least developed countries who currently have no or inadequate access to lifesaving medications. Focusing on the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic in LDCs, the first section of this essay begins with some background information of the disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS in LDCs. The second section provides a brief overview of some of the salient arguments for holding multinational antiretroviral treatment manufacturers as morally responsible for easing the disproportionate global disease burden. The third section explains that these arguments regarding pharmaceutical companies’ duty to assist are going too far on the one hand by downplaying other non-pharmacological contributors to the slow response, but are also not going far enough on the other hand in upholding reciprocity-based duties. As the international community and researchers battle the reemergence of Ebola in Africa, the fourth section explores how lessons from the HIV/AIDS situation can help to address what pharmaceutical companies may subsequently owe patients in this region and how the international community should respond to ongoing unequal disease burden.

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