Patent Proposals Unacceptable, Rich Countries Wasting Developing Country's Precious Time, Says Oxfam

Press Briefing
February 11, 2003

Today, Oxfam told rich countries to stop wasting developing country's precious time with unacceptable proposals on patents and medicines.

The suggestion from the Chairman of the TRIPS Council yesterday that a deal should only apply in emergency or extremely urgent situations was just one more in a series of proposals that pander to the short term commercial interests of big pharmaceutical companies at the expense of public health, said the international aid agency.

'Poor countries should not have to wait until a health problem has reached emergency proportions before being able to obtain affordable generic medicines.' Oxfam said. 'Such a restriction does not apply to rich countries and is completely contrary to the Doha Declaration'.

Changes mandated over a year ago to improve access to medicines for developing countries have been consistently undermined by rich countries who, at the behest of big pharmaceutical companies, have turned the deal into a quagmire of restrictions and red tape.

Developing countries have rightly rejected attempts by rich countries to restrict the scope of diseases covered by the deal. 'The rich countries are acting in bad faith, and reneging on their promises to put health before profits ' says OXFAM.

The whole point of this deal was to allow developing countries the same access to affordable generic medicines as wealthy countries. But the proposals, if agreed, would perpetuate the unfair double standard between rich and poor countries.

Many developing countries are very dissatisfied with the current text but are under great pressure from rich countries to accept it. 'Developing countries should unite to reject the current text ' said Oxfam. 'Thanks to the Doha Declaration developing countries can use other provisions of the TRIPS Agreement to export and import generic drugs until rich countries are ready to agree to a meaningful multilateral solution. The blame for continued deadlock would lie squarely with the rich countries'.

Lack of progress on this issue, and other matters of great importance for developing countries such as reform of agricultural trade and better market access for textiles, show that so far there is very little development inthe so-called Doha Development Round. But Oxfam warned that a bad or merely symbolic deal on patents and medicines would only further discredit and damage the WTO.

Romain Benicchio: 0041-22-321-23-72
Celine Charveriat: 0041-79-668-6477

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