The WTO and Access to Generics: Developed Countries renege on their Doha commitments

Act Up-Paris
December 5, 2002

At the Ministerial Conference in Doha the Member States of the WTO committed themselves to granting all countries which are not producing pharmaceuticals the right to receive generics by the end of 2002, via exports from the producing countries.

In approving the declaration on TRIPS and Public Health these Member States committed themselves to finding a solution suitable for the whole scope of public health problems in all the countries that are not able to produce domestically the health products they need.

Since then and once again at the last meeting of the TRIPS Council on November 25-27 some developed countries-the United States, the European Union, Switzerland, Canada, Japan and Australia-have been trying to renege on these commitments and force developing countries to ratify an agreement which is totally unsuitable to answer their identified needs. Thus they have rejected the solution put forward by developing countries which is favored by the WHO, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the European Parliament.

The situation is extremely serious.

Implementing the intellectual property agreements by the 144 Member States will lead to drastically restricting access to all patented medicines, in particular to new treatments, in poor countries.

Globalization of trade exchanges through the imposition of international regulations cannot be limited to the protection of the interests of a few multinational corporations at the expense of the health needs of the great majority of people.

UN agencies have just published the figures on the spread of the AIDS epidemic : 42 million people are infected and a quarter of them should have access to treatments immediately. At the same time all health indicators show that hepatitis C is spreading at an almost epidemic rate everywhere in the world. Nobody knows what other diseases may threaten mankind in the coming years.

The great majority of those countries hardest hit by these diseases are not able to produce themselves the treatments their own people need.

This is why countries which are capable of producing generics must be allowed to export them in necessary quantities and as quickly as possible to countries that are in need of them. Each country must have access to medicines, active ingredients, test kits, reagents quickly and as easily as if it were capable of producing them itself.

This must the case for all diseases without any restriction placed on beneficiaries and suppliers and without the WTO regulating and controlling the public health policies implemented by various governments in developing countries.

If no really suitable solution can be found in the coming days or if a restrictive, unworkable solution is imposed on developing countries when the General Council of the WTO meets on December 11 and 12, 2002, developed countries will be responsible for an unprecedented international crisis.

It will thus show that these international agreements, which were to a large extent imposed on poor countries, cannot deal with questions as essential as the health needs of the world's population : hence the framework itself of the intellectual property agreements(TRIPS) will have to be reviewed as quickly as possible.

Gaelle Krikorian
+ 33 6 09 17 70 55

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