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International News

World Trade Organization Meeting Fails to Resolve Major Issues on Generic Drugs

November 18, 2002

Trade ministers from 25 rich and poor countries talked up the prospect of reaching a deal to give developing countries access to inexpensive drugs to fight AIDS and other diseases after a two-day meeting ended Friday in Sydney. But the major questions -- which countries will qualify and which diseases will be covered -- have yet to be answered. Efforts to begin the current round, delayed after talks collapsed in Seattle in 1999, succeeded after wealthy countries promised that talks would include a focus on developing country issues.

A major concern among developing countries was that they be allowed to buy less-expensive generic copies of drugs to fight HIV, as well as tuberculosis and malaria. A promise to do so was included in the agreement that launched the current round of trade talks, but governments left the details to be worked out by a year-end deadline.

Canadian Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew said all sides agreed that HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria would be covered. But the United States, Europe and other nations with large pharmaceutical industries do not want the deal to cover diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Other ministers called the talks a success because the meeting reaffirmed the commitment to finishing a deal by the original year-end deadline.

US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said officials will continue to work on details during the coming weeks. "I think it's something we can do by the end of the year," he said Friday after the meeting. Nigerian Commerce Minister Mustafa Bello has begun advising ministers regarding what parts of the drug package are most important if an overall agreement cannot be reached by the deadline.

Back to other CDC news for November 18, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Wall Street Journal
11.18.02; Phillip Day

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on Generic/Discount HIV Drug Access in the Developing World