[Ip-health] news: interpress service- Have Never Opposed Generics' - British Ex-Politician

Terri - Louise Beswick Terri at haiweb.org
Fri Jun 25 08:30:06 PDT 2010


Have Never Opposed Generics' - British Ex-Politician ( )

Jun 24, 2010 (Inter Press Service/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) --
Baroness Lynda Chalker, a former British government minister, has been
at the forefront of the intellectual property rights crusade to pass
laws against counterfeits in east Africa. These laws threaten the use of
life-saving generics in countries that depend on such medicines for some
90 percent of their healthcare needs.

 

The campaign has seen the Anti-Counterfeit Act of 2008 being adopted in
Kenya while the Counterfeit Goods Bill is currently under consideration
in Uganda.

 

Trade ministers of the East African Community (EAC) will consider an
anti-counterfeit policy and law at regional level before the end of
June, which has implications for Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, the other
three member states of the EAC. The campaign has made further inroads as
Malawi, Zambia and Ghana are considering similar laws.

 

Chalker has pushed for the adoption of these laws in her capacity as
chairperson of Africa Matters Limited (AML), an advisory consultancy to
companies operating in developing countries.

 

She also serves as trustee of the Investment Climate Facility, an
organisation promoting the IPRs agenda in Africa, supported by various
multinational companies, Western governments and the World Bank's
International Finance Corporation.

 

Chalker previously served in Britain's Conservative Party cabinet
between 1986 and 1997 as minister responsible for the foreign and
Commonwealth office and for overseas development.

 

As AML chairperson Chalker met senior members of the EAC in April 2007,
including EAC secretary general Juma Mwapachu and counsel to the EAC
Wilbert Kaahwa.

 

At the meeting, Mwapachu and Chalker agreed that urgent and concerted
efforts were necessary to combat the illegal trade in counterfeits and
ensure the harmonisation of laws in all five EAC states.

 

In October 2007 Chalker addressed a conference on intellectual property
rights (IPRs) in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, where she highlighted the need
for strict IPRs enforcement through police and customs authorities.

 

Chalker has since 2007 been attending Uganda's presidential investors
roundtable. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has become a vocal
supporter of legislating against counterfeits.

 

In February 2008 Chalker chaired a session at the fourth global congress
on combating counterfeits and piracy in Dubai where she listed the
advancements made in east Africa in the "global war against
counterfeiting" and praised the work of the Kenya Association of
Manufacturers, a key mover behind Kenya's anti-counterfeit law.

 

The congress is part of the global IPRs campaign. Chalker said in her
address at the session that, "in terms of countries' economies and
individuals' lives, (counterfeiting) is unpleasant.

 

"In the case of medicines ... it is downright dangerous. Aside from the
personal suffering there is the economic reality of the extra burden
counterfeiting places on health services in developing countries," she
added.

 

Chalker addressed the first east African investment conference in
Kigali, Rwanda, in June 2008, which was attended by Rwandan President
Paul Kagame and ministers from the EAC. There she stated that IPRs
protection "is a cornerstone of establishing a more conducive investment
climate".

 

In February 2009, Chalker through AML organised a conference for Ugandan
ministers and government technocrats on the strategies to fight
counterfeits. Museveni, who opened the conference, said that Uganda
should follow the Chinese example of hanging counterfeiters.

 

At the meeting Chalker, who is also chairperson of the Medicines for
Malaria Venture (MMV), asserted that "more than half the anti-malaria
medicines in Africa are counterfeit".

 

At an ICF summit in May this year, Chalker said the recent
Constitutional Court ruling suspending those sections of Kenya's
Anti-Counterfeit Act applicable to generic medicines was a drawback to
anti-counterfeiting efforts.

 

"This is an eye-opener to the drafters of anti-counterfeiting
legislation that consultation and deeper research must be done when
drafting laws," was her admonition. "The court in its wisdom has found
that the sections of the act being challenged may be inconsistent with
international and national protocols and laws."

 

In an interview with IPS, Chalker emphasised that, "I have never spoken
and will never speak against generic medicines that meet the required
standards". Having engaged with the lawyers drafting the EAC
legislation, she is furthermore confident that the wording of the EAC
legislation will not confuse generic and counterfeit drugs.

 

But in her responses to IPS's questions she conflated the issues of
safety standards for medication with IPRs, a manoeuvre that has become
the stock-in-trade of those driving the international IPRs campaign.

 

Her stance is that, "an anti-counterfeit law is essential in Uganda and
east Africa as a whole; one only has to look at the number of deaths
arising from counterfeit pharmaceutical products, electronic goods and
auto spare parts. This is an evil which is killing innocent people and
legislation to prevent it is essential".

 

When asked to explain her stance in the light of health rights
advocates' warning that the laws are contrary to the flexibilities
allowed to least developed countries in the Trade-Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights agreement and that they will block access
to generics, Chalker emphasised that laws need to be "well-drafted".

 

The laws' aim needs to be stated clearly as preventing people "from
being harmed by counterfeit medicines, which are medicines which contain
a minimal amount of the required active ingredient, no active ingredient
or which can be actually poisonous. The aim is not to prevent the
production and use of good generic medicines," she said.

 

In the interview, Chalker stressed the issue of the "highest quality and
safety standards" and that "governments must give adequate resources to
customs and police who are in the frontline of the battle" to enforce
IPRs. Trademark owners should assist authorities, she added.

 

Moses Mulumba, legal advisor to the Coalition for Health Promotion and
Social Development of Uganda (HEPS Uganda), told IPS that registering a
trademark does not necessarily mean that such registered goods will meet
the appropriate quality standards.

 

Promoting the use of police and customs to enforce "standards" rings
alarm bells as it suggests that an IPRs agenda is being enforced rather
than an agenda that is about access to safe medicines, said Mulumba.
Drug regulatory agencies are better placed to distinguish between
generic and counterfeits medicines. *Additional reporting by Christi van
der Westhuizen

 

by Wambi Michel

 

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