Advocates at AIDS Conference Call for End to U.S. Trade Pacts That Hinder Local Production of Low-Cost Antiretrovirals
August 21, 2006
More than 45 organizations on Thursday at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto signed a demand for a moratorium on U.S. free trade agreements that they say prevent local production of low-cost antiretroviral drugs, AFP/Today Online reports. Advocates at the conference also called for an end to what they called a "pharma war" on people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries. Brook Baker -- a lawyer at Northeastern University and an analyst for Health Group Access Project -- said the U.S. has pushed for trade deals that would protect U.S. patent rights by preventing local companies from making generic versions of pharmaceutical molecules patented by U.S. companies. Although the World Trade Organization in 2003 agreed to allow developing countries to issue compulsory licenses -- which permit domestic companies to copy drugs patented in other countries -- the moratorium demand says "current WTO intellectual property rules are already making it difficult for countries to access affordable medicines." Anan Grover, a legal advocate in India, said patent issues could make second-line antiretrovirals inaccessible for many people who need them. "Within five years there will be a major crisis. The number of people that are going to be requiring second-line drugs is going to increase," Grover said. The demand was signed by Medecins Sans Frontieres, Oxfam and U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis (AFP/Today Online, 8/18). It also was signed by doctors, academics, lawyers, scientists, faith-based groups and health care workers (MSF release, 8/17). An unnamed U.S. trade official disagreed with the advocates' assertions, saying access to medicines has been widened by U.S. free trade agreements. UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said he did not expect a major confrontation between advocates and drug companies (AFP/Today Online, 8/18).
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