On March 15 the European Parliament adopted the following resolution on access to HIV and other treatment in poor countries. It is not widely known in the U.S., so we are reprinting it here.
Paragraph number 6 (see below), on the TRIPS agreement, was particularly fought for by international AIDS activists. TRIPS (the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) is the part of the WTO (World Trade Organization) treaty dealing with intellectual property.
Note: The European Parliament, also not well known in the U.S., is in fact a model for democratic governance in an age of growing globalization. For over 20 years it has been directly elected by citizens of different countries, bypassing national governments (one person one vote, but with some weighting to help small countries). Today it has significant power, with veto authority over about 80% of European Union legislation. For more information (in your choice of 11 languages) see http://www.europarl.eu.int/.
For a look at the development of international civil society today, and a call for a popularly elected world assembly, see "Toward a Global Parliament" by Richard Falk and Andrew Strauss, Foreign Affairs January/February 2001, volume 80 number 1. Both authors are professors of international law, but the article is written for nonspecialists.
Note: As this issue went to press, the April 19 withdrawal of the pharmaceutical industry lawsuit against South Africa made headlines around the world -- marking a milestone in the development of international civil society. We will have more information in AIDS Treatment News #364.
Statement Approved by European Parliament, March 15, 2001
Access to Medicines for AIDS Patients in the Third World
The European Parliament,
-- having regard to its previous resolutions on AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases,
- whereas 95% of people infected with HIV live in the developing world, including more than 25 million in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world's most infected regions,
- whereas over half of all new cases are amongst young people under the age of 25, who make up the most economically active part of the population, and each 15-year-old in South Africa has a 50% risk of becoming infected and dying from AIDS,
- whereas it is predicted that in South Africa, where 1 in 10 South Africans are HIV positive, HIV/AIDS will reduce life expectancy by 20 years by 2010, and whereas hundreds of thousands of South Africans die every year from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,
- whereas anti-retroviral drugs have already reduced the number of AIDS deaths in Europe and the USA by 75%, but the price of these drugs keeps these medicines out of reach of millions of infected people, notably in Africa,
- whereas the Commission's February 2001 Communication on a Programme of Actions to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis includes a commitment to tiered pricing where developing countries pay the lowest possible price for medicines, an acknowledgement of the possibility of exploring the best use of compulsory licensing systems and a commitment to launch a debate in the WTO on reconciling the TRIPS agreements with the objectives of health protection in developing countries,
- whereas Article 31 of the WTO/TRIPS Agreement permits a country to enact national laws permitting the use of a patented product without the authorization of the patent-holder (compulsory licensing) under certain specified circumstances,
- whereas many drugs are unaffordable because of patents which allow the companies a monopoly for 20 years from the date when the patent is filed,
- whereas the court case between 39 pharmaceutical companies and the South African Government over the terms of its 1997 Medicines Act has now been adjourned in order that the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of South Africa can provide the information requested by Judge Ngoepe,
- whereas the Kenyan Government has announced its intention to implement a law that would allow it to obtain cheap life-saving medicines, under the provisions of the current TRIPS Agreement,
- whereas the US has taken legal action in the framework of the TRIPS Agreement at the WTO against Brazil, which has shown that through improvements in its health care system, combined with the provision of generic medicines, it is possible to halve the mortality rate of people with AIDS, for allowing the national production of generic medicines,
- whereas the EU has asked the new US Administration to work with it on an initiative to get anti-AIDS drugs to the developing world at prices it can afford and this issue will be dealt with at the EU-US June Summit in Stockholm,
- whereas tropical diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and sleeping sickness kill millions of people each year, particularly because of the increase in resistance or the non-existence of treatments due to research having been abandoned simply on grounds of commercial profitability,
- Calls for the development of a system allowing developing countries equitable access to medicines and vaccines at affordable prices, while expressing its solidarity and support for the governments of South Africa and Kenya in their struggle to use WTO-compliant legislation to gain access to the cheapest possible life-saving medicines;
- In this context welcomes the statement by Commissioner Lamy that the Commission supports the right of developing countries to use the safeguards in the WTO/TRIPS Agreement, including compulsory licensing, and the commitment by the Commission to launch a debate in the WTO on reconciling the TRIPS Agreement with objectives regarding health protection in developing countries;
- Calls on the pharmaceutical companies that issued a legal challenge to the South African 1997 Medicines Act to withdraw from the case;
- While respecting the intellectual property rights of the pharmaceutical industry, calls on the Commission to strengthen the ability of developing countries to resist the pressure to introduce more stringent patent laws than those currently required under the WTO TRIPS Agreement;
- Calls on the Commission to work with the Member States to show international leadership in the struggle for life-saving medicines by encouraging technology transfer and support for the strengthening and/or development of local production capacity;
- Calls for the current review of the TRIPS Agreement to ensure that the rights of developing countries to obtain the cheapest possible life-saving medicines, whether patented or generic, are guaranteed, and further calls on all the interested parties to actively engage in this process;
- Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the WTO, the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the OAU.
ISSN # 1052-4207
Copyright 2001 by John S. James. Permission granted for noncommercial reproduction, provided that our address and phone number are included if more than short quotations are used.
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