AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. July 2000, Volume 2, Number 7.

Journal Discussion

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Access to Essential Drugs in Poor Countries

Readers are referred to an article by B. Pécoul et al in a 1999 issue of JAMA to discuss what ethical duties developed countries have to ensure that essential drugs are accessible to patients in poor countries.

Articles and books on bioethics continue to expand in both number and the range of topics discussed. Between 1989 and 1998, more than 4000 articles alone were published in MEDLINE-cited journals. Some of the major topics examined are the patient-physician relationship, end-of-life care, reproductive medicine, genetics, and the allocation of scarce medical resources. From these publications, we will be selecting a handful of articles and chapters, some of which reflect issues of perennial concern to physicians, others reflect more recent quandries resulting from advances in biomedical technology.

A new article or book chapter will be featured every month, accompanied by questions intended to guide readers along the path of ethical reasoning and to promote discussion.

Pécoul B, Chirac P, Trouiller P, Pinel J. Access to essential drugs in poor countries  —  a lost battle? JAMA. 1999;281:361-367.

Questions for Discussion

From a human rights perspective, the authors of this article argue for a more substantial role for the World Health Organization in ensuring access to essential drugs in developing countries.

  1. Do you see globalization changing the ethical duties of developed countries?
  2. What structures should be in place to ensure that essential drugs are available in developing countries?
The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.