Drug Makers Say World Trade Organization Setback Will Not Have Significant Impact
November 15, 2001
Drug companies may have been forced into a compromise on a very large patent issue at the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Qatar this week, but back home they insisted nothing substantial had changed. "The industry wanted to make sure that the final language of this declaration did not expand or diminish the rights and obligation within" world trade agreements, said Alan Holmer, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PHARMA). "We are now satisfied that the language does not."
AIDS activists and representatives of poor nations won a long-sought-after agreement at the WTO talks. The agreement is essentially an interpretation of world trade rules that reaffirms the right of countries to seize patents on drugs to address a range of public health needs. "It's the greatest moment of our entire campaign -- we're euphoric," said Jamie Love, director of Ralph Nader's Consumer Project on Technology. "We could have written that declaration ourselves."
Analysts said that the true effect of the declaration won't be known for years when countries begin deciding to draw the line between drugs that are desperately needed to face substantial health threats and those that are just good for people. The worries are years away, and the threats of seizures, according to experts, are largely confined to markets where drug makers make few sales anyway. "It's a public-relations black eye, but it has no consequence whatsoever to the bottom line," said Hemant K. Shah, an analyst at HKS & Co.
At the end of the day, the press releases told the public relations story. Activists, like Doctors Without Borders, along with other charities, released a press advisory that said: "Green Light to Public Health First at WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha." PHARMA's statement read: "WTO Doha Declaration Reaffirms Value of Intellectual Property Protection."
Wall Street Journal
11.15.01; Gardiner Harris, Rachel Zimmerman
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.