Patents and profits: The fight for affordable medicines

  • The health crisis in developing countries (Cecilia Oh)
    There has been worldwide concern over the high prices of drugs and medicines. More than anything else, it is the current health crisis in the developing countries, which has aroused public interest in this issue.

  • Patents and monopoly prices (Cecilia Oh)
    Product patents, by conferring a monopoly on drug companies in the production and distribution of the patented drug, enable them to charge exorbitant prices for their products. The TRIPS Agreement of the WTO (a body avowedly dedicated to trade liberalisation) sanctions this anti-competitive behaviour.

  • Patents vs. patients: AIDS, TNCs and drug price wars (Kavaljit Singh)
    The international campaign for affordable medicines which compelled the drug TNCs to drop their lawsuit against the South African government has stripped the veil shrouding the practice of price-fixing by these corporations. The AIDS drugs price war which the campaign triggered off has also served to highlight the benefits that accrue from generic competition.

  • Developing countries call for action on TRIPS at Doha WTO Ministerial Conference(Cecilia Oh)
    The extreme urgency of the situation caused by the high prices of drugs resulting from the WTO’s patent regime prompted developing countries (led by the Africa Group) to seek a special meeting in the WTO’s TRIPS Council. The following is a report on the proceedings at this special one-day session held in Geneva on 20 June.

  • TRIPS and public health
    The following is the text of the submission by a group of developing countries - the Africa Group, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Peru, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Venezuela - to the TRIPS Council for the Special Discussion on intellectual property and access to medicines on 20 June.

  • US opposed to moves to address public health concerns about TRIPS (C. Oh)
    The US is blocking developing countries’ efforts to address the negative impact of the TRIPS Agreement on access to medicines by attempting to restrict ongoing discussions in the WTO to only the HIV/AIDS problem.

  • The Africa Group's proposals
    A set of proposals by the Africa Group on TRIPS and public health.

  • Patents and medicines: The WTO must act now!
    The following is the text of a joint NGO statement on the Special Discussion in the WTO TRIPS Council on patents and access to affordable medicines. The statement was endorsed by over 100 NGOs and issued in Geneva on 19 June at a media conference organised by Oxfam, Medecins Sans Frontieres and Third World Network.

  • Ensuring access to affordable medicines: 10 proposals for clarification of TRIPS (Martin Jalleh)
    Developing countries must be guaranteed the ability to take measures to protect public health and promote access to affordable medicines. The TRIPS Council discussions on the TRIPS Agreement and public health have been addressing growing concerns that TRIPS has hindered access to affordable medicines. The forthcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar in November will also afford WTO Members an opportunity to take measures to ensure that the TRIPS Agreement does not undermine public health policies. Above, outlined by Martin Jalleh, are the Third World Network’s recommendations for action by WTO Members, including proposals for clarification and interpretation and, where required, revision of the TRIPS Agreement.

  • Developing countries have right to enact compulsory-licensing laws, says UN report (Marwaan Macan-Markar)
    The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has, in its latest Human Development Report, called on developing countries to enact compulsory-licensing laws which will permit local companies to produce cheaper generic copies of patented drugs. Such licensing laws are not a violation of the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

  • NGOs disappointed with WHO-WTO workshop on drug pricing (C.Raghavan)
    THE WHO-WTO workshop on ‘Affordable medicines for poor countries’ held in Norway in April was a response to the growing campaign of public interest NGOs of the North and the South about the mounting evidence of a runaway global monopoly intellectual property system in the WTO that is curbing the rights of national governments without countervailing international state power or resources to offset the welfare losses of the poor.

  • Differential pricing of drugs to help people - or corporations? (C.Raghavan)
    The current move by the WTO, the EU and certain sections of the pharmaceutical industry to promote differential pricing as a solution to the problem of inaccessibility of medicines by the poor nations raises fears of a hidden agenda: a calculated move to change the TRIPS Agreement to prevent parallel imports and compulsory licensing.

  • A letter to the WHO (Ralph Nader)
    In a letter to Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, US consumer activist, Ralph Nader, has criticized the organization for failing to exercise effective leadership on the critical issue of access to medicines and, more generally, on the expanded use of generic drugs. We reproduce below the full text of the letter dated 23 July 2001.

  • Report links high drug prices to marketing costs, executive payouts and profits
    A new report by a US consumer health organisation has challenged drug industry claims that high drug prices are necessary for research and development.

  • Dying for 'free trade' (Aileen Kwa)
    When the Thai Food and Drug Administration took the necessary legislative steps to sanction the production of generic drugs within a shorter time lag after the release of the branded versions, it felt the full brunt of pressure from Washington. Fortunately, Thai activists have rallied in support of the government in its effort to ensure access to cheaper medicines.

  • For affordable medicines (Sukumar Muralidharan)
    A recent symposium held in New Delhi on making medicines affordable to the poor revealed a differing approach to that of the WTO TRIPS Agreement in resolving the problem. Whilst one group held that the future of health care called for the delegitimising of TRIPS, another advocated utilising all the room formanoeuvre within the accord, including its provision for compulsory licensing.