July 21, 2010
The United States protects the intellectual property rights of HIV pharmaceutical manufacturers over the human rights of governments seeking to produce the drugs more cheaply, AIDS groups charged this week.
A coalition of HIV advocacy groups asked UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health Anand Grover to investigate whether the United States is pressuring countries to give up certain rights to manufacture HIV drugs. The rapporteur can respond to the allegations and enter into a dialogue with the countries in question.
A World Trade Organization agreement on intellectual property rights known as TRIPS gives governments some leeway to allow their domestic drug manufacturers to produce cheaper versions of patented drugs. The activists charged that the United States slammed countries taking advantage of this option in an annual US Trade Representative's (USTR) report called "Special 301" -- a critique of the activities of governments around the world in protecting US intellectual property rights on a broad range of products.
Among the specifics cited by the activists is the inclusion of Thailand on a "priority watch list," just short of the most serious designation, and an "out-of-cycle" review of intellectual property rights enforcement in the country. Thailand has battled US pharmaceutical manufacturers in its aggressive anti-HIV efforts.
At the same time, the USTR report affirmed the right of countries to use their regulatory flexibility in the face of public health crises.