[Ip-health] WTO TRIPS Council: World Health Organization issues unequivocal support of LDC transition period for pharmaceutical products

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Jun 10 04:24:50 PDT 2015


http://keionline.org/node/2244

WTO TRIPS Council: World Health Organization issues unequivocal support of
LDC transition period for pharmaceutical products


Today, on Wednesday, 10 June 2015, the World Trade Organization's TRIPS
Council discussed the LDC Group's Request for an Extension of the
Transitional Period Under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement for Least
Developed Country Members with Respect to Pharmaceutical Products and for
Waivers from the Obligation of Articles 70.8 and 70.9 of the TRIPS
Agreement (Source: IP/C/W/605). According to informed sources, around 30
WTO members including many developing countries, the Holy See and two high
income economies - Chile and Norway, issued strong statements of support
for the LDC Group's duly motivated "request for an extension of the
transitional period (that ends on 1 January 2016) for as long as the WTO
Member remains a least developed country."

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued this strong, nuanced statement
in support of the LDC Group's request.

STATEMENT OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION WTO TRIPS COUNCIL JUNE 2015

AGENDA ITEM: REQUEST OF LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRY WTO MEMBERS WITH RESPECT TO
THE EXTENSION OF THE TRANSITION PERIOD FOR PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS

Universal health coverage is the central policy objective in global public
health and part of the future UN Sustainable Development Goals. Universal
health coverage means that all people obtain the full spectrum of
essential, quality health services they need without suffering financial
hardship. This requires a strong, efficient, well-run health system that
meets priority health needs through people-centred integrated care. Health
systems must provide for a system for financing health services, a
sufficient capacity of well-trained health workers and be able to ensure
access to safe, effective and affordable essential medicines and
technologies.

Access to essential medicines is also recognized as part of the human right
to health as an integral component of primary health care. Unfortunately,
we as a community have not yet achieved this aim in all countries. There
are many reasons for this gap, which include inadequate health systems,
lack of political commitment, lack of good governance and insufficient
investment in health in general. Where people have to buy medicines out of
their pocket, it is essential that patients are provided with financial
protection and essential medicines are affordable. This is particularly
true for those countries that the UN classifies as the least developed
countries.

Currently, LDCs that are members of the WTO are not required to apply most
of the substantial rules of the TRIPS Agreement until 1 July 2021. In
particular, they have no obligation to provide any protection for clinical
test data or to grant patents, including on pharmaceutical products or
processes. In parallel, LDCs benefit from a specific transitional period
with respect to the pharmaceutical field under the 2001 Declaration on
TRIPS and Public Health which if not extended, ends on 1 January 2016.

Being exempted from granting patents allows least developed countries to
either locally produce or to import generic products even when those are
still under patent in other countries. This can help countries in expanding
health coverage by allowing the health sector to rely on more affordable
generic suppliers. Being able to do competitive procurement, including from
local or foreign manufacturers is in particular important in the area of
HIV as well as for the new treatments for highly prevalent conditions like
hepatitis.

The possibility not to grant patents on pharmaceuticals can also play a
crucial role for LDCs to enhance local production of generic versions of
essential medicines through strategic joint ventures. This can strengthen
domestic manufacturing which can contribute to achieving public health
objectives by ensuring security of supply as well as creating a knowledge
economy.

Consequently, the LDC group stated that the request aims at facilitating
access to affordable medicines in LDCs and is motivated by the massive
health challenges resulting from communicable and non-communicable diseases
in LDCs, their socio-economic and financial constraints, as well as the
lack of adequate technological base and local manufacturing capacities in
the pharmaceutical sector.

WHO welcomes and supports the LDC request for extension as part of an
overall effort to facilitate access to essential medicines in these
countries and urges the Council for TRIPS to favourably consider this
request.



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