[Ip-health] SCP16: KEI intervention on Patents and Health

Thirukumaran Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu May 19 08:17:23 PDT 2011


http://www.keionline.org/node/1139

SCP16: KEI intervention on Patents and Health

By thiru
Created 19 May 2011 - 4:00pm
16th session of the WIPO Standing Committee of the Law of Patents (SCP)
Thursady, 19 May 2011
KEI Statement on Patents and Health

KEI is impressed by and fully supportive of the joint proposal of the African Group and the Development Agenda Group on a work program on Patents and Health, which has been published as SCP/16/7. We agree with the comments of the Chair that the proposal is both comprehensive and well thought out.

The 20 paragraph proposal is largely focused on studies, information exchange and technical assistance relating to the use of TRIPS flexibilities, with some novel proposals, such as to explore the benefits to mandating the disclosure of international non-proprietary names (INNs) of relevant medicines in the abstract or names of patent applications. SCP members can use the studies, information sharing and technical assistance proposed in SCP/16/7, to enhance their bargaining power and access to affordable medicines.

Both developing and developed countries should be supportive of the Africa Group/DAG proposal.

There can be no realistic expectation of universal access to life saving medicines and other medical technologies unless governments can issue or threaten to issue compulsory licenses to patents, and take other steps to enable competition for products. This is true in all countries, but particular in countries with lower incomes.

Yesterday UNITAID presented forecasts that more than 20 million HIV positive persons in developing countries will need access to antiretroviral drugs by the year 2025. According to a new NIH study, the early availability of ARV drugs may cut the transmission of AIDS by 96 percent. There is simply no way that Northern donors or developing country governments can support such an extensive program of treatment unless they have access to very cheap generic drugs. A failure to provide treatment will lead to millions of preventable deaths and high rates of infection. For this reason alone, the SCP should be supportive of the proposals in SCP/16/7.

For some types of cancer, it is essential to have access to new drugs, such as Herceptin, a biologic drug used to treat HER2 positive breast cancer. The patented version of Herceptin can cost as much $100,000 per year, and is not available to the majority of women who need the drug. There are also very costly diagnostic devices that are needed to provide acceptable standards for care for cancer, HIV, TB, hepatitis, and other diseases.

Recently KEI was asked if there would be support for a new global fund program for Hepatitis, and some people have suggested expanded donor support for expensive cancer drugs and vaccines.

It is simply inconceivable that taxpayers in the Group B countries will agree to pay for all of the expensive patented drugs that are needed to treat cancer, hepatitis, AIDS and other diseases.

Indeed, in the US alone, the number of low income HIV positive persons now on waiting lists for AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP) was 7,873 persons in May 2011 as compared with 361 persons in January 2010.

The fact that the United States cannot afford to have universal treatment for AIDS patients living the United States, underscores the challenges of providing universal access in developing countries.

Similar concerns about access to new drugs for cancer and orphan diseases have been expressed in Europe and other high income countries.

 


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Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

thiru at keionline.org



Tel: +41 22 791 6727
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