Statement by the representative of the World Health Organization

WTO Council for TRIPS
17 September 2002

On behalf of the World Health Organization, we wish to extend our warmest greetings and congratulations to Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi on his appointment as Director-General of the World Trade Organization. We look forward to continuing our Organization's technical cooperation with WTO. Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi is no stranger to the field of public health having served on the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health and having opened the first meeting of the WHO Network for Monitoring the Impact of Globalization and TRIPS on Access to Medicines.

WHO is hopeful that, as instructed by the Doha Ministerial Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, the TRIPS Council will find an expeditious solution to the problem faced by WTO Members and other countries with insufficient or no manufacturing capacities in the pharmaceutical sector for making effective use of the TRIPS Agreement's provisions on compulsory licensing, and report back to the General Council by the end of this year.

WHO re-affirms its commitment to support WTO Members and the Council for TRIPS in finding an expeditious solution to this problem raised in Paragraph 6 of the Declaration.

To this end, WHO has published a paper, Implications of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, WHO/EDM/PAR/2002.3. This paper describes the features of a solution to the so-called "paragraph 6 problem" which are desirable from a public health perspective. These include: a stable international legal framework; transparency and predictability of the applicable rules in the exporting and importing countries; simple and speedy legal procedures in the exporting and importing countries; equality of opportunities for countries in need of medicines, even for products not patented in the importing country; facilitation of a multiplicity of potential suppliers of the required medicines, both from developed and developing countries; and broad coverage in terms of health problems and the range of medicines.

Thus, the basic public health principle is clear: the people of a country which does not have the capacity for domestic production of a needed product should be no less protected by compulsory licensing provisions (or indeed other TRIPS safeguards), nor should they face any greater procedural hurdles, compared to people who happen to live in countries capable of producing the product.

Among the solutions being proposed, the limited exception under Article 30 is the most consistent with this public health principle. This solution will give WTO Members expeditious authorization, as requested by the Doha Declaration, to permit third parties to make, sell and export patented medicines and other health technologies to address public health needs.

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