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The Clinton and Gates Foundations: Global Health Superpowers

Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010

Through their foundations and personal-diplomacy efforts, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton are changing how the international community addresses global health concerns. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the world's wealthiest philanthropy, and it has used its wealth to help set the governance agenda for global health. The William J. Clinton Foundation has used the former president's stature to negotiate agreements between governments and pharmaceutical companies that had previously stymied international trade negotiations for years. The prominence of these two foundations raises a host of issues about the role of private actors in international governance, policy accountability within the international community and the ethical obligations for eliminating global health disparities.

Under the current global health regime, the vast majority of medical benefits and medical research benefit the world's wealthiest 20 percent -- even though poor countries shoulder 80 percent of the global burden of disease. By the early 2000s, worldwide annual expenditures on medical research totaled $70 billion, yet 90 percent of this funding focused on diseases that constitute a mere 10 percent of the global burden of disease. Of the 1,223 new drugs developed between 1975 and 1997, only 13 -- a mere 1.06 percent -- were for treating tropical diseases. ...

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