WTO “solution” on cheap generic medicines poses new barriers to access AIDS activists demand permanent amendment to TRIPS that eliminates deadly red tape

Act Up-Paris • Health GAP (Global Access Project)
September 11, 2003

(Cancun) At the Cancun WTO Ministerial AIDS activists criticized the deal reached by WTO Members August 30, about how countries with insufficient manufacturing capacity can make use of the public health flexibilities stated in the Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, signed two years ago at the Doha WTO Ministerial.

“As the Ministerial opened, Bob Zoellick, Pascal Lamy and others were eager to take credit for this deal, claiming it as a shining example of a WTO that works for the poor people and for people with HIV,” said Sharonann Lynch of Health GAP. “On the contrary, bullying from the US and the EU gave us a deal that prioritizes the profit motive of Big Pharma and compromises access to medicines— business as usual for the WTO.”

Activists pointed to complicated new obligations of generic manufacturers and importing and exporting countries required by the agreement as proof that the “solution” would be difficult, if not impossible to implement. These include, but aren’t limited to: the requirement of compulsory licenses in both importing and exporting countries, the creation of new avenues for bullying of countries that try to use the deal, and public and private efforts by the US to exclude countries that have may have some manufacturing capacity, but are unable to do domestic production because they lack economic efficiency.

“The solution could have been very simple and straightforward, using a model such as the WHO and other experts have suggested,” said Gaelle Krikorian of Act Up-Paris. “The complexities imposed by rich countries are designed to uphold drug company monopolies and to discourage widespread generic competition in poor countries.”

“The red tape that binds this ‘solution’ will strangle people with AIDS, and others who are dying without access to desperately needed medicines,” said Asia Russell of Health GAP.

The WTO’s next step is to create a permanent amendment to TRIPS that would permit countries to obtain exported generic medicines. Activists demand that the permanent amendment return to the letter and the spirit of the Doha Declaration—which prioritized access to medicines for all—by removing the new burdensome conditionalities imposed by this temporary waiver.

“This solution is being exploited by the US and EU to put a human face on the WTO. That human face is a mask. Unless countries are able to routinely use the flexibilities in TRIPS, clarified in the Doha Declaration, countries should not be obligated to respect patents on needed medicines, period,” said Chloe Florette of Act Up-Paris.

For more information: contact Gaelle Krikorian, Act Up-Paris: 998 120 9229
Asia Russell, Health GAP: 1 267 475 2645


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