[Ip-health] Bridges Africa: EU calls for indefinite extension of WTO TRIPS waiver on pharma products for LDCs

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Sep 21 01:30:30 PDT 2015


LDCS <http://www.ictsd.org/search?f[0]=field_tag%3A408>
BRIDGES AFRICA <http://www.ictsd.org/bridges-news/Bridges-Africa>
EU calls for indefinite extension of WTO TRIPS waiver on pharma products
for LDCs
18 September 2015

The European Commission announced
<http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5620_en.htm> this week that it
will support the least developed countries' (LDCs) request for easier
access to cheaper medicines through an indefinite exemption from
WTO intellectual property rules for pharmaceuticals.

"Although patents stimulate innovation in developed and emerging economies,
intellectual property rules should be a non-issue when the world's poorest
are in need of treatment,” declared EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia

The exemption “will give the least developed countries the necessary legal
certainty to procure or to produce generic medicines,” she said.

The announcement has drawn praise from some civil society groups, who have
also called for other WTO members to do the same.

“We applaud this important change in the EU position since the last time
this issue was discussed at the WTO,” said
Malpani, Director of Médecins Sans Frontières, who also urged “other
countries that have not yet fully supported the request, especially the
United States and Switzerland, to follow the lead of the EU.”

In a letter
to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) and the US Patent and
Trademark Office (USPTO), several civil society representatives urged
Washington to disclose its LDC pharmaceutical extension policy positions.
These representatives included Brook K. Baker from Health GAP, James Love
from Knowledge Ecology International, Peter Maybarduk from Public Citizen,
Judit Ruis from Médecins Sans Frontières, and Stephanie Burgos from Oxfam

“It would simply be unacceptable for the US to oppose the duration
requested by LDCs and to instead require LDCs to return repeatedly to the
TRIPS Council every few years for successive short-term extensions,” reads
the letter.

The TRIPS Council is the WTO body tasked with administering the
organisation’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property
Rights (TRIPS).

*Access to cheaper medicines*

Earlier this year, the WTO’s poorest members tabled a proposal for
extending indefinitely their transitional period for enforcing global trade
rules protecting pharmaceutical patents and clinical data, as well as a
related waiver involving patent protection and exclusive marketing rights
for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products.

Should this transitional period expire in January 2016, as it is currently
set to do, some WTO members argue that requiring LDCs to enforce these
rules could constrain their capacity to make or procure low-cost generic
medicines. (See Bridges Weekly, 5 March 2015

The proposal tabled by Bangladesh on behalf of the LDC Group back in
February requested that the transition period for LDCs remain in force for
as long as those countries remain under that category, citing among other
reasons the health burdens that result from high rates of HIV and other
diseases in their countries.

“It is imperative for LDCs to retain maximum policy space to enable them to
confront their health burdens with effective and affordable strategies,”
reads the proposal.

The proposal was discussed again in more detail at a meeting of the TRIPS
Council in June, though no solution was reached at that time.

*Parallel processes*

Currently, WTO members that are considered to be LDCs under the UN
<http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/cdp/ldc/ldc_list.pdf> are
exempted from having to implement the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement
relating to the protection of pharmaceutical patents and clinical
data, notably to enable their access to low-cost generic antiretroviral
treatments in light of the high prevalence of HIV in some LDCs.

In June 2013, WTO members agreed to extend the transition period for LDCs
to implement the overall TRIPS agreement until July 2021. That extension,
according to the same decision, noted that it occurred “without prejudice
to another WTO Council Decision of 2002 on the extension of the LDC
transition period for “certain obligations with respect to pharmaceutical
products” that expires in 2016.

The LDC Group in that instance had also originally requested for the
extension to last so long as a member was a least developed country, a move
that had been met with resistance from some other WTO members. In the end,
the extension was granted until 2021 following negotiations with the rest
of the global trade body’s membership. (See Bridges Weekly, 13 June 2013

The next TRIPS Council is scheduled to take place from 15-16 October.

ICTSD reporting.
LDCS <http://www.ictsd.org/search?f[0]=field_tag%3A408>, TRIPS

More information about the Ip-health mailing list