World AIDS Day: Lamy calls for more action on access to medicines after progress in Doha

Brussels, 30 November 2001

European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy marked World AIDS Day (1 December) by pledging that the Commission would continue to do all in its power to make sure that safe, affordable drugs are available to all who need them in the struggle to combat HIV/AIDS and other killer diseases, especially in the world's poorer countries. In a statement published for the occasion, he said:

'At the recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial meeting in Doha, we reached agreement on a Declaration addressing the issue of affordable medicines so vital to the wellbeing of those fighting diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The text of the Declaration on intellectual property rights and public health was accepted by 142 WTO members after some very difficult negotiations. It strikes the right balance between the concerns of developing countries where HIV/AIDS and other killer diseases are most prevalent and the need to maintain incentives for research-based industries that develop life-saving drugs.

For developing countries, it brings much needed clarification as to the flexibility to which they are entitled when they need to use provisions in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement to adopt measures to protect public health. This will assist those countries worst affected by HIV/AIDS.

For developed countries, there is more clarity as to the rights and obligations of Members provided for under the TRIPS agreement. The climate for continuing to pursue research-based innovation should thus improve, now that uncertainties have been removed.

However, much still remains to be done and World AIDS Day is an appropriate moment to remind ourselves of that. I am glad we have clarified that WTO Members have the right to grant compulsory licences to produce medicines and the freedom to determine the grounds, such as public health interests, upon which such licences are granted. But that may not be of immediate benefit to Members without the capacity to produce the right medicines. That is why we plan to find means of ensuring that they may benefit from both the letter and the spirit of the TRIPs Agreement. The Commission is preparing concrete ideas on the issue of compulsory licensing and plans to submit them for discussion in the WTO (TRIPs Council) early in 2002.

In Doha, we also agreed to give the world's least developed countries an extra 15 years to amend their legislation with regard to patents on pharmaceuticals. This will certainly be welcomed by these countries and we remain committed to providing technical assistance to make it possible to reach this goal. Beyond the issue of intellectual property, we continue to believe that a global tiered pricing regime for pharmaceuticals -- that is, prices fixed for different countries in accordance with ability to pay -- would greatly contribute towards making medicines available to all.

We are well on the way to dealing with some of the trade aspects of this issue. But we should not lose sight of the bigger picture. The EU sought to mediate in the negotiations leading up to the Doha outcome because of its commitment to combating the diseases afflicting poorer countries, particularly HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, via public health policies that take into account the various dimensions involved. We are well aware that medicines alone, even free ones, are not enough to tackle preventable or curable diseases unless there are viable health systems to catch those who are vulnerable in a proper safety net. That involves assistance to develop care infrastructure, training,transfer of technology, research as well as trade aspects. This is why the European Union is supporting the United Nations efforts to set up a Global Health Fund and is strengthening its own health related assistance.

To get the results that meet the needs of those we want to help, we encourage a broad dialogue and partnership with all stakeholders : governments, donor organisations, industry, non-governmental organisations. That's how we got this result, and how we will go on until we complete this essential mission.''


According to a new report from UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation, the hardest-hit countries in sub-Saharan Africa could lose more than 20 percent of their GDP by 2020 because of AIDS. Life expectancy in the region has fallen dramatically as a result.

IPs on AIDS issue issued this year MEMO/01/182, IP/01/714, IP/01/763, IP/01/862 and last year IP/00/1398

For more information on DG Trade Civil Society Dialogue/Access to Medicines, go to:

For more on DG Development policy on health in developing countries, go to:

World Aids Day:

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