World Trade Organization
Together, let us build a healthy world! The Second Peoples Health Assembly will be the culmination of a process of local and national reflections, discussions and debates, and of the exchange of experiences of communities and networks the world over. National and regional conferences and workshops centered around all aspects that influence the health and well being of the marginalized will be held in preparation of PHA 2.
Developing countries could now find it easier to import affordable generic drugs, after ministers from 25 countries reached a consensus to finalise agreements on access to medicines for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. During an informal meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Sydney this week, the trade ministers managed to reach a consensus on the key issues of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement and how the WTO would allow equitable access to medicines in the developing world without contravening property rights, news reports said on Friday. Trade ministers agreed at the WTO ministerial conference in Doha last year that poorer countries facing serious health threats should be allowed to avoid international drug patents by buying generic copies from manufacturers in other countries. But they left the details to be completed by the end of 2002. In the 12 months since Doha, however, no change has been achieved as rich countries, led by the US [United States] are fighting to maintain the status quo, Oxfam said in a statement. Oxfam spokesperson Michael Bailey, from the Make Trade Fair campaign team, said: Thanks to worldwide public concern and the commitment of developing country governments, we can get a solution to the problem, but it’s not in the bag. The big drug companies don't want to lose money from their patented products and are lobbying hard to limit any change to the rules. But this would render the 'solution' virtually worthless. Meanwhile UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the trade ministers to propose, without delay, a long-term solution to increase developing countries' access to affordable medicines and vaccines for deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. (Source: PLUSNEWS 15 November,2002)
WTO ministers meeting here reached a preliminary deal on access to generic medicines in developing countries, according to a copy of a draft text received Tuesday. The text states that a World Trade Organisation agreement on protecting patented pharmaceuticals does not and should not prevent countries taking measures to protect public health. The draft must still be approved at a plenary session scheduled at 14:00 (1100 GMT) of trade ministers and delegates who are then expected to continue final negotiations on a range of issues until midnight. If they agree on the documents, they will serve as a roadmap for fresh trade talks. The WTO accord, known as TRIPS - trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights - has been one of the toughest issues on the agenda at the five-day sesssion in the Qatari capital. Ministers have been locked in hard bargaining since Friday to find consensus on the contents and time frame of a new round of talks on further reductions in trade barriers. Developing countries, especially India and Brazil, sought assurances they would not be prevented by the TRIPS agreement - which offers patent protection to big pharmaceutical companies - from using cheaper, generic medicines to treat a health pandemic such as AIDS. They were opposed by Switzerland and the United States, who argued the current accord was flexible enough to not stand in the way of efforts by poor countries to respond to crises such as AIDS. They also warned that any weakening in the accord would discourage companies from investing in research and development. (Source: SAPA-AFP, 13 November 2001)
Proposals to relax some of the patent provisions on pharmaceutical drugs meant to deal with pandemics, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, have been met with scepticism. The proposals, which will be tabled by the US and several other western countries at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting to be held in Doha, Qatar, later this week, offer to extend the window on full compliance of all pharmaceutical-related Trips (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) provisions for 10 years till 2016 for the least developed countries. This means that sub-Saharan countries which break patents will be allowed a five-year grace from prosecution when dealing with HIV/AIDS, infections related to AIDS, and other health crises, such as malaria and tuberculosis. Multinational pharmaceutical companies, whose interests have traditionally been well protected by western governments, particularly the US government, are greeting the move with caution. It seems SA makers of generics too will have to wait until the meeting in Doha is over before they assess whether their ability to copy patented drugs has been meaningfully enhanced. Global drug companies and diplomatic sources say the move is meant to seek out some form of middle ground between the position taken by developed countries and the position sought by poorer nations. Developing countries would like to be able to override patents for public health needs when they see it as necessary. Developed countries, and drug companies do not wish to see their patents eroded in this fashion. Jamie Love of Washington's Consumer Project on Technology, which fights for generic copies of drugs to be more widely available, says the moratorium on the dispute settling provisions of the WTO is to be welcomed, but he points to other problems. Countries classified by the United Nations as least developed do not include SA, Brazil, India, Thailand or Kenya. These are the countries where generics would make competition and bring down the price of medicine. (Source: Business Day, 7 November 2001)
Declaring a state of emergency to access generic drugs used in treating HIV/AIDS was not necessary, President Thabo Mbeki told the National Assembly on Wednesday. Replying to the Leader of the Official Opposition, Tony Leon, the president said as far as the government was aware, there was no country that had declared a national emergency on these grounds. Moreover, declaring a national emergency simply to access any drugs, would send a signal that tended to narrow the response to AIDS in the issue of one particular drug. In terms of Section 37 of the Constitution and the State of Emergency Act of 1997, a state of emergency could be called only when the life of a nation was threatened by war, invasion, general insurrection, disorder, natural disaster or any other public emergency. And then only when the declaration is necessary to restore peace and order, Mbeki said. Mbeki said the issue of declaring a national emergency in the event of an epidemic stemmed from a debate on how to effectively use provisions of the World Health Organisation's TRIPS accord to facilitate the issuing of compulsory licences for drugs that still enjoyed patent protection. That is why the government would await the decision of the High Court, as well as the report of the Presidential Advisory Council Team, before evaluating its current policy on AIDS, should there be any need, Mbeki said. (Source: SAPA, 14 March 2001)