World Health Organization
Krogh, Peter F. (Peter Frederic)
Wolfe, Sidney M.
Examines the growing debate over the WHO’s proposal to regulate the international activities of pharmaceutical companies.
Founded in 1948 as the primary international organization dealing with health issues, the World Health Organization’s stated goal is the “attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health.” Until the 1980s the WHO was mostly non-political in its pursuit of higher health standards; however as the third world undertook a concerted push to make the United Nations agencies work for developing nations, the WHO moved beyond its original mandate. Under substantial pressure from third world countries, the WHO considered implementing a code to regulate the international marketing of pharmaceutical products. While these drugs and vaccines were vital to the populations of developing countries, such products were primarily produced by western multinational corporations. Opponents of the code argued that regulation could curtail the operations of pharmaceutical companies, causing severe cutbacks in the research and development of new medicines, as well as in revenues and profits. Advocates of increased oversight countered that national controls in less developed countries were insufficient, and that the international community must be empowered not only to regulate the drug firms, but also to transfer pharmaceutical technology and expertise to the developing world. In this episode, host Peter Krogh sits down with Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe, a leading health activist and Director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group, and Jay Kingham, Vice President for International Affairs at the Pharmaceuticals Manufacturers Association, to discuss the economic and humanitarian concerns involved in the growing debate between the WHO and pharmaceutical companies.
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