[Ip-health] HAI Global Press release on the 63rd World Health Assembly

Sophie Bloemen Sophie at haiweb.org
Mon May 24 03:32:12 PDT 2010

22 May 2010

Geneva- This years' World Health Assembly (WHA) was historic. Health
Action International (HAI) followed some of the most controversial
issues that were up for discussion on this ambitious agenda: the debates
and action around agenda items 11.3 Global Strategy and Plan of Action
(GSPA) on Public Health Innovation and Intellectual Property, and 11.20
Counterfeit Medical Products. On both issues, the debate played out more
or less with opposing positions taken by Northern and Southern

11.3 Global Strategy and Plan of Action (GSPA) on Public Health
Innovation and Intellectual Property

The GSPA debate was firmly centred around the contentious process and
outcomes of the Expert Working Group (EWG) on Research and Development
Financing. At the presentation of the final EWG report to the Member
States of the World Health Organization's Executive Board (EB) in
January this year, it received a less than warm welcome from several
governments and civil society organisations.
During this week's WHA, an increased number of countries expressed very
critical positions on the report and the 'next steps' on the GSPA
implementation, which was the subject of intense debate. The Southern
countries, to a large extent represented by UNASUR, including Brazil,
Ecuador and Venezuela, and SEARO, including India and Thailand, formed a
united and strong front on the proposed resolution. There was severe
critique on the process, transparency, conflicts of interest and
incompleteness of the EWG. Member States expressed dissatisfaction with
the fact that the concept of de-linking the costs of R&D from the price
of medicines had not been fully explored as mandated by the GSPA, and
that the end result did not meet their expectations.

The outcome of discussions, a resolution on the Establishment of a
Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Finance
and Coordination rejects the former EWG's report and demands a review of
all proposals, which represents a huge step forward. A Consultative
Expert Working Group will be established where Member States will
nominate experts who will then be appointed by the EB. The
inter-governmental element of the new group was something that the
United States and EU had wanted to avoid. However, Brazil, UNASUR,
India, Thailand and many more developing countries held their ground,
insisting on an EWG that would avoid any perception of intransparency or
conflicts of interest that could risk derailing the process again.

Along with many developing countries and civil society organisations,
HAI sees the new resolution as a real chance to revive the process of
exploring and implementing innovative proposals for R&D that could
structurally address some of the inefficiencies and flaws of the current
R&D system, which does not meet the health needs of many people in the
developing world. 

11.20 Counterfeit Medical Products

The agenda item on Counterfeit Medical Products also proved difficult to
resolve, and in particular the question about WHO's continued
involvement in IMPACT (the International Medical Products
Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce). Again many Member States from the South,
led by UNASUR and SEARO, and also Kenya criticised the continued
preference for the "counterfeits" discourse over drug regulatory issues
of quality, safety, efficacy; the inappropriateness of WHO's engagement
with the intellectual property enforcement agenda and its involvement
and role in IMPACT.

Their argument proved successful and the WHA decided to establish a
time-limited and result-oriented Working Group on substandard, spurious,
falsely labelled, falsified, and counterfeit medical products that will
be comprised of and open to all Member States, and will reassess the
WHO's partnership with IMPACT.
HAI and other civil society organisations welcome the two outcomes on
agenda items 11.3 and 11.20. This WHA has made a clear stand on the
problems associated with IMPACT, and on the inappropriate use of the
'counterfeits' discourse in a public health context, in general.  The
conflation of IP enforcement with public health objectives, such as
quality and safety of medicines undermines access to medicines. This is
now understood by all stakeholders and reflected in this resolution.

There was a general feeling of dissatisfaction among civil society
observers regarding increased limitations on NGO participation in the
World Health Assembly. Aside from the suspension of the NGO privilege to
hold technical briefings, which was announced before the WHA, there also
seemed to be more difficulty in participating in the committee sessions
through the NGO intervention mechanism and HAI was unable to deliver its
submitted interventions on either of the agenda items. HAI values its
status of 'official relations' with the WHO and we hope that the ability
for civil society organisations to engage fully in the WHA will be

For more information, please contact Sophie Bloemen, Projects Officer,
on sophie at haiweb.org "Terri - Louise Beswick" <Terri at haiweb.org>

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