[Ip-health] AIDS groups criticise US/EU/Japan for putting profits of MNC drug makers before patients

Kajal Bhardwaj k0b0 at yahoo.com
Wed Jun 8 11:16:11 PDT 2011

8 JUN, 2011, 03.10PM IST,ET BUREAU 

AIDS groups criticise US/EU/Japan for putting profits of MNC drug makers before patients

MUMBAI: Patient advocacy and civil society groups working in the area of HIV/AIDS have criticized free trade agreements (FTAs) being signed between the developed and developing or less developed nations for allegedly putting profits of multinational pharma companies ahead of people's right to health. 

Their criticism coincides with the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS being held in New York from June 8 to 10 which is also being attended by officials from India's ministry of health and National AIDS Control Organisation . 

Groups such as the Delhi Network of Positive People, Health GAP and the East African Treatment Access Movement have come down hard on the European Union , the US, and Japan for entering FTAs that are allegedly seeking to enforce drug patenting rules that are stricter and less flexible than those agreed under the Trade-Related Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS agreement of the multilateral World Trade Organisation . 

TRIPS prescribes certain minimum patenting standards that all member organizations have to respect. "Language proposed by the nations facilitating the UN process - Botswana and Australia - on trade agreements and the removal of any and all TRIPS-pl US measures from FTAs has been rejected by the EU and they are joined in this by the US and Japan," said a joint statement of these groups. "Japan has even stated that there is no evidence that greater patent enforcement in developing countries is creating barriers in access to medicines." 

The statement alleges that that past FTAs signed between the US and developing countries have forced TRIPS-plus measures like data exclusivity - where a drugs regulator cannot rely on innovator data to approve a generic for long after the patent expires - and have led to exorbitant medicine prices. Having to generate its own data could potentially be costly and time-consuming for a generics company thus delaying generics launches. In Jordan , 79% of 102 off-patent medicines introduced in the market had no generic equivalent because of data exclusivity, it said. 

The US is now trying to push TRIPS-plus measures in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations on Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile, Peru and possibly Thailand, it alleged. 

Among the TRIPS-plus measures cited in the statement include strong counterfeiting laws in Kenya that indirectly enhance the enforcement of drug patents leading to seizures of generics shipments enroute to that country by the EU. "There is a marked change in the European leadership on access to HIV treatment today as compared to the one in 2004 at the Bangkok AIDS Conference that stood up in favour of access to generic medicines and against the US FTAs being negotiated at the time," said Shiba Phurailatpam of APN+. 

An estimated 18.3 million people living with HIV will be in need of treatment by 2015, the statement says. Many of them may also need medicine for co-infections such as Hepatitis-C and tuberculosis. Newer HIV medicines like etravirine, darunavir, raltegravir cost thousands of dollars per person per year while medicines for hepatitis-C like pegylated interferon and telaprivir start at $10,000 and go up to $49,000 per treatment per person, it said. 

"With funding drying up as well and fewer avenues for decreasing the prices of ARVs (HIV drugs), many countries are reluctant to adopt the new World Health Organisation guidelines for treatment," said Lorena Di Giano of the Argentinean Network of Women living with HIV/AIDS. "Any policy options to get generic supply for developing countries are being taken away in FTA negotiations with the EU, US and Japan,"


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