Rich countries undermine WTO medicines deal

oxfamGENEVA (AFP) - Several charities have accused rich countries of undermining a World Trade Organisation agreement to improve access for the world's poorest people to cheaper drugs against diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

The rules were set up by the WTO's 149 members at Doha, Qatar in 2001 to grant poor nations threatened by serious diseases a temporary exemption from international laws protecting intellectual property rights on medicines.

The British charity Oxfam said developed countries had done "nothing or very little" to meet their obligations and had even undermined the agreement in some cases.

Oxfam highlighted policies by the United States to impose stricter conditions on patents for medicines when negotiating bilateral free trade agreements.

For example, a trade deal between the United States and Colombia would oblige the South American nation to spend an extra 1.0 billion dollars per year up to 2020 to buy patented medicines rather than generic products, Oxfam said.

Similarly, Peru will see a doubling of the price of medicines in 10 years, the charity noted in a statement Tuesday.

Oxfam also criticised US and Swiss pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Novartis for taking legal action to prevent generic copies of their drugs being made in the Philippines and India respectively.

These claims were rejected by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), which said that 95 percent of essential medicines sold worldwide were not patented.

"Intellectual property is not a major obstacle to access to medicines," the industry body said in a statement.

It noted that even generic drugs were unaffordable in the poorest countries, where per capita spending on healthcare only amounted to around 10 dollars annually.

For its part, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) claimed that drug prices had risen in the five years since the Doha agreement.

It called for further reform to intellectual property rights to ensure that generic producers could keep pace with newer and more sophisticated treatments being developed by established pharmaceutical companies.

source - AFP 

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This page contains a single entry by ID Admin published on November 15, 2006 5:59 PM.

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