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Drugs for the world’s poor

The patents and priorities of the western drugs industry are stacked against the sick of the developing world. But philanthropy, the impact of Aids, and new faces in global institutions have reinvigorated the battle against poor people's diseases.

By Shereen El Feki   November 2000

In the oasis villages around Ouarzazate, beneath Morocco’s Atlas mountains, globalisation is bearing strange fruit. The kasbahs bristle with satellite dishes; caf?s offer mint tea and “il internet”; and the call to prayer is accompanied by the ringing of mobile phones.

But some western exports remain out of reach. Azithromycin is a powerful antibiotic which stamps out all sorts of bacteria, including the one which causes blinding trachoma. This is a problem for 1.5m Moroccans living in the region, where the disease is often carried by flies which flit about infected eyes. While good hygiene and surgery go some way…

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