July 22, 2010
Inter Press Service reports on a recent symposium on access to medicine, "jointly hosted by the WHO, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)."
The symposium looked at several issues that influence the cost of drugs, including intellectual property rights, the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the paragraph 6 mechanism, which enables least-developed countries (LCDs) "without the capacity to produce generic medicines to import such drugs from other countries where the drugs were produced under compulsory licensing," IPS writes.
Symposium participants, who included WHO Director General Margaret Chan and officials from UNAIDS and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), discussed challenges with accessing drugs under TRIPS. "The problem is that, as largely recognised at the symposium, this mechanism does not work well. For example, in 2007, Rwanda notified the WTO that it intended to import generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs from Canada. Both countries had to issue compulsory licences. The process was cumbersome and long, taking more than three years," IPS writes.
The symposium also looked ahead to what might happen as "LDCs were given a 20-year deadline that will expire in 2016," the article notes. "Some African countries are developing their production capacity but we are concerned about the 2016 TRIPS deadline -- not only for production but also for import -- because of the threat of prices rising," according to Michelle Childs, director of policy and advocacy for MSF (Agazzi, 7/20).
In related news, a consortium of access to medicine groups, academics and experts, gathered at the University of California at Berkeley Law School signed a declaration addressed to the WIPO, WTO and the WHO, contending that their "enforcement agenda threatens" efforts to expand access to medicines in low- and middle-income countries and compromises progress towards health-related Millennium Development Goals, Pharmabiz.com writes.
"In particular, we reject the attempt to conflate the serious public health issue of medicines quality with private concerns about the enforcement of intellectual property rights," the declaration states. It takes issue with the draft Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and demands it be abandoned.
"The European Union should cease its efforts to export its much-criticized enforcement policies to low- and middle-income countries. We call for a moratorium on exporting these policies through free trade agreements and technical and financial assistance. The review of EU customs regulations that was prompted by the recent generic drug seizures must be concluded with amendments to these regulations that remedy the threat that they pose to access to medicines," the declaration states (Shankar, 7/21).