Letter from Jim Yong Kim, HIV/AIDS Director of the World Health Organization to Dr. A Ramadoss, Minister of Health and Family Welfare of India

17 December 2004

Dr. A Ramadoss
Minister of Health and Family Welfare
Government of India
Nirman Bhawan, Maulana Azad Road
New Delhi-110 001

Dear Dr. Ramadoss,

We would like to bring to your attention that several of our Member States have expressed their concern that in the future, generic antiretroviral drugs from India may no longer be available to them. Among other places, these concerns were expressed by the delegations of Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, and Namibia at our recent Procurement & Supply Management (PSM) Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya (2-9 December, 2004), and by Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, and Vietnam at the Asian Regional Workshop on the WTO/TRIPS Agreement and Access to Medicines held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (28-30 November 2004).

As you are aware, WHO has been actively monitoring the implications of trade agreements on public health. One key issue is the impact of the end of the transition period at 1 January 2005 allowed under the TRIPS Agreement, which delayed the application of product patents, on the local production and supply of generic antiretroviral agents.

The WTO Ministerial Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health adopted in Doha, 2001 affirmed that "the TRIPS Agreement can and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of WTO Members' right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all." In line with this, recent resolutions of the World health Assembly have also urged that national legislation should be adapted in order to use to the full the flexibilities contained in the TRIPS Agreement (WHA 56.27, May 2003 and 57.14, May 2004). In accordance with its mandate, WHO will therefore seek to provide technical assistance and support to Member States to promote implementation of the TRIPS Agreement consistent with the public health objective of ensuring access to medicines.

As India is the leader in the global supply of affordable antiretroviral drugs and other essential medicines, we hope that the Indian government will take the necessary steps to continue to account for the needs of the poorest nations that urgently need access to antiretrovirals, without adopting unnecessary restrictions that are not required under the TRIPS Agreement and that would impede access to medicines.

We thank you for your attention to this issue and send our best regards.


Dr. Jim Yong Kim
Department of HIV/AIDS

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