[Ip-health] IP Watch: Developing Countries Blast WHO Report On IP, Demand “Credible” Approach

Malini Aisola malini.aisola at keionline.org
Tue May 18 12:38:54 PDT 2010


Developing Countries Blast WHO Report On IP, Demand “Credible” Approach 
By Kaitlin Mara and William New

18 May 2010

A critical report on financing research and development of medicines for
the world’s poorest was created without transparency, failed to live up
to its mandate, and did not address the potential threat that
intellectual property rights can pose to access to drugs, developing
countries said today at the World Health Assembly. But a proposal by a
group of Latin American countries for a new intergovernmental working
group was not accepted by developed countries and others and quick
informal consultations began to work out differences before the end of
the assembly this week.

“The working group failed to fulfil the mandate it had been given,” said
the Latin American countries in their draft resolution put forward
today, available here [pdf]. 

“We are not prepared to accept or welcome a report with so many
inadequacies,” said the delegate of Venezuela, in a view echoed by a
number of delegations. “The [Expert Working Group on financing of
neglected disease R&D] no longer has legitimacy,” Thailand followed. 

Argentina’s delegate said the working group’s process was “not credible”
and that it lacked in-depth analysis and did not deal with intellectual
property in respect of commitments made in the global strategy on
de-linking the costs of drugs from the cost of treatments, and was
conducted without transparency. 

Despite the criticisms, many countries, developed and developing,
acknowledged the limited timeframe for the report to be completed, and
the amount of work that went into it.

Unable to reach agreement on a way forward in committee, governments
have moved to informal consultations to decide how to proceed on the
report of the Expert Working Group (EWG) on research and development
financing which was formed last year. The report was made under the
auspices of the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health,
Innovation and Intellectual Property.

At issue now is whether to continue the work via another expert working
group, an ad hoc intergovernmental process, or in the eyes of the United
States and others, just to allow some experts to look further at what
the expert working group came up with. There is disagreement over
whether a next group, if agreed, should be limited to looking deeper at
existing proposals or would be allowed to examine others, such as those
taken out by the Expert Working Group in question. 

A Swiss delegate raised the threat that no consensus this week could
mean the end of the group’s efforts. Several speakers urged that the
momentum of the group be carried forward. But one country said another
group like the past one would be more harmful than no further work at

The United States raised a question of the cost of establishing an
intergovernmental process, which WHO Director General Margaret Chan
estimated would cost US$3 million. The Brazilian delegation pointed out
that US$49 million remained unspent from the 2008-2009 budget line on
technical and medical products. Switzerland then downplayed the budget

Precious Matsoso of the WHO secretariat described the reports and other
work it has done in support of the process, and Chan reminded member
states that the next steps are up to them. She agreed with members that
this was a “first step” and generally defended the work of the Expert
Working Group. 

For Afflicted Countries, Group Did Not Fulfil Hopes 

Developing countries had rested hope for solutions to the struggles they
face achieving access to affordable medicines in the hands of this
expert group, widely hailed as one of the key outcomes of the global
strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and
intellectual property when it was approved in May 2008 (IPW, WHO, 28 May

But the work of the group “did not conform to expectations, particularly
those of developing countries,” said Bolivia, and it did not include
consultations with the civil society organisations “with whom our
governments usually work.” Bolivia added it could not support another
expert working group that would only replicate problems from the past.

The group did “not abide by the mandate” because it does not establish
or identify specific alternatives to funding to promote research and
development, said Ecuador on behalf of the UNASUR countries.

Developed countries were more supportive of the group’s work, with the
United States and Norway saying the mandate of the group could be
interpreted in different ways, and the EWG’s interpretation of it was

India said the report should have proposed a mechanism or combination of
mechanisms suitable for providing funding and to link that funding with
partnerships that would deliver for health. But it “failed to do so.” It
does not provide ideas or analysis of how to meet developing country
needs. The report “leaves what should have been the most important part
of the work of the EWG to future work,” the Indian delegate said. 

The report “failed to capture the variety of problems that are linked to
IP. The problems emanate from curbing” the flexibilities under the World
Trade Organization Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
(TRIPS) agreement, said the delegate of India. Worse, he added,
“developed countries are not only making their IP laws TRIPS-plus but
are also making developing countries accept” the same strengthened
provisions through free trade agreements or aid. And, despite the
increase of patents on drugs, drugs with new therapeutic value are not
emerging. India’s statement is available here [pdf, note: truncated in

Several states expressed disappointment that delinking the cost of
research and development from the cost of treatment was not discussed in
more detail. Brazil said that the EWG had instead delinked its
conclusions from the indicators contained in the global strategy.

Legitimacy, Transparency at Issue

There were “several issues” with the functioning of the EWG, said the
delegate of Kenya, including potential conflicts of interest. Kenya
called for a new expert working group to be constituted, with the
selection process aided by the director general in a “transparent
manner” with regional representation. 

Transparency issues have dogged the group’s work since the beginning,
with countries and other stakeholders receiving little information about
the choosing of the experts, their process or their progress while it
was ongoing. In this context, when a document was leaked to a
pharmaceutical lobby group on October, the conclusion of many states and
civil society groups was that the expert’s work had been unduly

The expert working group that created the report “has no longer
legitimacy” said the delegate of Thailand, saying a new working group
should be “free of direct or indirect industry influence.”

Cuba said they believed stakeholders had been “subjected to a little bit
of disinformation” and had not had “access to all information we might
have needed and wanted.”

Even the United States – generally supportive of the group’s work – said
it was “regrettable” that information on process and manner of work was
not included in the report itself when published, and that member states
did not hear about it until last week’s informal meeting (IPW, WHO, 14
May 2010).

Chan did not answer transparency concerns expressed by member states
during the committee meeting.

Malini Aisola
Knowledge Ecology International
1621 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 500, Washington DC 20009
malini.aisola at keionline.org|Tel: +1.202.332.2670|Fax: +1.202.332.2673

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