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Opinions: Counterfeit Medicines; Oral Rehydration Therapy; Increasing Access To Safe Drinking Water; Attracting R&D For Health Issues In Latin America

U.S. Must Lead In Global Fight Against Counterfeit Medicines

“[T]he Obama administration and Congress should continue efforts to strengthen the safety of America’s drug supply and, simultaneously, coordinate a global response to the problem of counterfeit drugs,” Thomas Kubic, president & CEO of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute and a former deputy assistant director at the FBI, writes in a post on The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” where he describes the health risks associated with such drugs. “Even in a divided political environment, it’s a common sense public safety step everyone should be able to support,” he writes.

Kubic continues, “Given the Internet’s role in moving counterfeit drugs, the United States cannot address the entire problem [of fake drugs] on its own.” However, “coordinating with foreign governments, Internet search providers, and international organizations can make a real dent in the problem and secure safe medicines for everyone in the United States.” He concludes, “The United States government has taken steps to deal with [counterfeit medicines] and now, it must help lead other nations to begin doing the same” (3/21).

One Positive Legacy of War Between Bangladesh, Pakistan: Oral Rehydration Therapy

Ahead of the 40th anniversary of “Bangladesh’s war for independence from Pakistan,” Charles Kenny, who holds fellowships at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation, describes what he terms “one unambiguously positive legacy” of the war in a Foreign Policy opinion piece: the use of oral rehydration therapy to tackle cholera and other diarrheal disease. The approach of having patients consume a sugar-salt solution when experiencing diarrheal disease, Kenny writes, “has since saved many more lives than were lost during the fighting.”

“Since 1971, and with the active support of the World Health Organization and donors, this type of oral rehydration has become a standard treatment for diarrheal disease. Sugar-salt packages mixed in the right proportions are now widely available for a few cents a dose, and even cheaper tools of prevention are available,” Kenny writes, noting “there is still a long way to go in spreading the knowledge” about the benefits of such an approach. He concludes, “In the perfect world, everyone would have 24-hour access to clean water and networked sanitation services. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that each networked sewage connection costs magnitudes more than home-based prevention and other underutilized treatment options” (3/21).

Poor Water Management, Governance Practices, Lack Of Political Will Stand Between Poor, Clean Drinking Water

“We have the knowledge, funds, technology and experience” to bring clean drinking water to “urban centers of more than 200,000” in developing countries, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of Nestle, Asit Biswas, president of the Third World Centre for Water Management, and Lee Kuan, a visiting professor at the Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, write in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. “That we do not is because of poor water management and governance practices, and the lack of political will,” they state.

“For universal access to clean water, there is simply no other choice but to price water at a reasonable rate,” the authors write, describing how the city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was able to increase the numbers of people who could access clean water by improving the management of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority and instituting “equitable water pricing.” They conclude, “Phnom Penh has shown how the performance of a public utility can be transformed. … If Phnom Penh could do it, with its numerous constraints, there is absolutely no reason why other cities in the developing world cannot follow its salutary example” (3/21).

Latin American Governments Must Attract More Foreign R&D To Meet Region’s Health Care Needs

“Scientific innovation holds the promise of solving many” of the health problems facing Latin America, Senior Vice President Merck and President of MSD Latin America Angel Fernandez writes in an El Universal opinion piece. “The most effective way to make a difference in Latin America is to recognize where the unmet medical needs exist and stoke private, academic and public sector collaboration in the search for effective solutions. … By identifying top health priorities and creating an innovation-friendly regulatory environment, the public and private sectors can work together to expedite the process of drug development and approval to get new treatments and vaccines into the hands of patients faster.”

After describing several ways MSD has contributed to addressing Latin America’s health care needs, Fernandez concludes, “Latin American governments can do more to attract foreign R&D investment. Intellectual property protections can be further improved to secure the financial rewards for developing effective new treatments. Policymakers should also consider expanding tax incentives for investments in new research. And more needs to be done to foster continuous exchange of knowledge and innovation between the public and private sectors for the benefit of patients” (3/18).