Deadlock over scope of diseases threatens to kill solution

CPTech, Oxfam, Third World Network
November 27, 2002

The failure to agree on a solution on exports of healthcare products in the WTO is due to the developed countries - US, Japan, Canada, EC and Switzerland's - demand that any solution be limited only to medicines for a handful of infectious epidemics.

The US, Japan, Canada, EC and Switzerland are insistent that efficient mechanisms for compulsory licensing of medicines be limited to only a handful of infectious diseases.

They are also demanding that the solution shall not include vaccines and most medical devices.

The positions taken by these countries are clearly dictated by the demands of the big pharmaceutical companies.

Another problem is the effort to divide countries into categories of those which are eligible to use the solution and those that are not, when for the rest of the WTO TRIPS agreement, the ability to address abuses of patent rights are available to all countries.

According to Cecilia Oh of the Third World Network: "To try and limit the solution to only a very small number of diseases is immoral. The intention of the Doha declaration was to address public health problems, but the negotiations are now going backwards, against the agreement reached at Doha. How can the USTR be competent to decide which diseases amount to a public health problem for any country? It's not just about HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. There's a whole list of other diseases that are being excluded. Cancer, multiple sclerosis, asthma, diabetes, the list goes on -- these are all diseases which cause immense suffering."

According to James Love of the Consumer Project on Technology, "In Doha, the developing countries were asked to trust the rich countries to fix a problem in the TRIPS agreement on the export of medicines. Now the rich countries are refusing to honor the promise, offering a deal so limited and so prejudicial of other approaches that it is worth less than nothing. The suggestion that the WTO can bargain over diseases is itself appalling. The fact that the United States and other countries are explicit about excluding asthma, diabetes, cancer, and other serious public health problems is shocking. Are poor people only supposed to get sick from a short list of diseases? Maybe the TRIPS council should meet in a hospital and interview patients to find out which diseases deserve to be included in the 'solution'."

According to Celine Charveriat of OXFAM, "Developed countries are showing such bad faith on this issue. How can we proceed with the so-called Doha Development Agenda if the rich countries fail to deliver on the promise of the Doha Declaration, to ensure that medicines are available to all? And that means, all medicines, not only for a few diseases. Let's remember that the interests of millions of sick people in developing countries are at stake here."

For information, contact:
Consumer Project on Technology, James Love (+41 79 569 6022)
Oxfam, Celine Charveriat (+41 79 668 6477)
Third World Network, Cecilia Oh (+41 76 523 1233)

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