Asia needs cheap and affordable drugs to fight disease

The World Health Organisation (WHO) regional conference on August 22-25 will meet to discuss health strategies, including the fight against bird flu.

At the two-day meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, involving top level ministers, 11 south and southeast Asian countries will discuss health strategies, including the fight against bird flu, malaria, avian flu, pandemic-influenza and other health-related issues.

Ministers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, The Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Thailand, East Timor and Sri Lanka, and health ministry officials from India and Indonesia, will be at the meeting hosted by Bangladesh's Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia.

Khaleda Zia says developing countries could benefit from technology transfers and the revision of patent laws in order to ensure cheap but high quality medicines.

She says it is particularly necessary to make drug prices cheaper and affordable in order to contain diseases such as avian influenza, dengue, HIV/AIDS, malaria, as countries in the region are faced with unprecedented threats from emerging infectious diseases and the growing burden of chronic diseases.

Bangladesh's Health Minister Khandoker Mosharraf Hossain says not so long ago Bangladesh was a malaria and polio-free country, but now these diseases have returned due to viruses and parasites infiltrating from neighbouring countries and regional co-operation is a necessity in the fight against such fatal diseases.

The minister suggests a revised strategy for malaria control is needed and increased coordination in using global funds to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in the region.

Health ministry officials say Bangladesh had detected 10 cases of polio since January 2006.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says delegates will discuss decisions made at a recent World Health Assembly, as well as issues such as promoting patient safety at health care centres, alcohol consumption control policies and eradication of tropical diseases, especially in the context of tsunami-related dangers.

Countries such as India and Thailand have been struggling with the spread of AIDS and infectious diseases.

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