A leading global monitoring group says theft, bribery and extortion deprive those most in need of essential health care.

In its annual report on global corruption, Transparency International also says counterfeit drugs kill thousands of people each year, while speeding up the spread of drug-resistant diseases.

The Berlin-based group says the scale of corruption is huge and exists in both the public and private sectors, from petty thievery and extortion to massive distortions of health policy and funding. Transparency Chairwoman Hugette Labelle says the price is paid in human suffering.

The organization says it is difficult to know how much of the $3 trillion the world spends on health care is diverted from its intended purpose. It says the problem exists in the developed nations of North America and Europe, as well as in developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The report says fighting corruption begins with transparency. It says this includes easy access to information for both donor and recipient governments, and independent monitoring of public health policies and projects.