Paragraph Six Negotiations Update

January 28, 2003

Today there is a 3pm informal meeting of the TRIPS council, that I heard about yesterday. Although the secretariat claims it will be quite unstructured and brief, there is new information that the US and the EU are putting enormous pressure on Africa members to agree to new discussions on the scope of diseases, based upon the Lamy proposal. This is complicated by the WHO role that Lamy has proposed, because some countries oppose on principle the involvement of the WHO, thinking this may lead to ILO involvement in other issues, but also because the election of JW Lee of South Korea as the new WHO DG may signal a new more pro-big-pharma direction for WHO.

One theory here today is that there will sufficient movement in the African group to discuss the Lamy proposal, with the Lamy list of diseases (most of which are commerically unimportant), and things will then be coordinated by Supachai in a green room process. Since December the WTO secretariat has been saying the developing countries will cave and accept a list of diseases, even though the last reference to specific diseases in paragraph 1 of the Doha Declaration has been used against them.

Many developing countris see the US/EU/Pharma group winning the PR campaign, with the Western press giving creditability to the need to have some limits of disease scope, under I suppose the theory that it is the natural order of things that rich people should have a higher standard of care than the poor. (Otherwise, what's the point of being rich?)

Lamy has written MSF to say that "compulsory licensing is not an issue in Europe, because access to health care is guarenteed by an elaborate social security system." He might check in with Roche, which in 2001 was asking for a compulsory license to Chiron HIV patents in a German proceeding, or the UK, French and other EU governemnts that are negotiating for lower prices on the Myriad patents on the breast cancer gene, or the recent EU decision which awarded a compulsory license to IP claims in the IMS database of pharmaceutical prices, or ask how sustainable the EU health insurance systems are in the face of escalating prices for innovative products. Or he might ask how consumers in countries without well funded "elaborate social security systems" feel about a list of handful of diseases, or why a double standard for the poor is the EU way.

The reports from Davos indicate that Alec Erwin from South Africa, Supachai and Pfizer CEO and industry hardliner McKinnell have been negotiating the "solution." As of yesterday, few Geneva delegates had any information about this. We will have to see what comes out this afternoon.

In the meantime, if possible, NGOs on the ground in Kenya, Sengal, Lesotho, South Africa, Egypt, Zimbabwe and other Africa countries need to contact the Ministers of Trade in their home country and ask to be consulted on this negotiation. Contact CPTech, Oxfam, MSF or TWN if needed for additional information.

James Love

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