Letter from David Morley, Executive Director of MSF Canada, to Catherine Dickson

December 11, 2002

Catherine Dickson
Information and Technology Trade Policy Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
fax (613) 944-0066

Dear Ms. Dickson,

We are very concerned about the current discussions at the WTO TRIPS Council.

Developing countries share the disproportionate burden of the world's illness and death. Infectious diseases alone kill 15 million people each year. In addition to the individual suffering cause by this disease burden, disease contributes enormously to social and economic difficulties faced by the majority of the world's population. The diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease are essential to reduce illness and death. One significant barrier to access to effective medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and other medical technologies, is their price.

The imperative of public health was affirmed by the World Trade Organisation Doha Declaration last November, which states 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."

However, discussions at this moment at the WTO TRIPS Council represent a dangerous backslide in the global fight against disease: industrialized countries ? in particular the US, the EU, and Japan ? are putting immense pressure on developing countries to accept proposals that favour the economic growth of their industries over the health of millions. Trade negotiators are trying to limit the scope of diseases that should be considered a public health problem to AIDS, TB and malaria; moreover, the tools that are needed to respond to them are being limited to drugs - all other medical technologies, including vaccines and diagnostics, are being excluded.

It is unacceptable that crude compromises on public health are being put forward by people with no expertise in this field. No solution should limit the scope of public health problems, the medical technologies that would help advance public health or limit the geographical scope. The solution should not exclude vaccines or important medicine devices.

We urge you to ensure Canada does not compromise public health and the Doha declaration and takes a firm stance urging other countries not to either.

Yours truly,

David Morley
Executive Director
Médecins Sans Frontières Canada

cc: Ross Duncan
Senior Policy Analyst
International Health Division
Health Canada

Susan Bincoletto
Director, Patent Policy
Industry Canada

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