[Ip-health] BMJ's Deborah Cohen: The final declaration for the UN summit on NCDs

Thirukumaran Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Sat Sep 10 04:32:12 PDT 2011



But the area of greatest tension was over intellectual property and flexibilities in trade agreements—known as TRIPS— where only after some intense horse trading was the final declaration agreed.

In 2001, against a backdrop of concern about the AIDS epidemic, countries agreed the Doha Declaration which stated that intellectual property should not prevent states from dealing with epidemics and public health crises. This meant UN agencies, charities and governments could buy far cheaper generic versions of drugs made in the likes of India and Brazil that were patented in the West .

As pharmaceutical industry representative are keen to point out, many drugs for NCDs are off patent. Many expensive cancer drugs and newer medicines, however, are still patented.

The BMJ understands that the perceived threat to intellectual property forced US like-minded countries—such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Switzerland— to form a group with the EU to protect their interests. They did not want the declaration to mention TRIPS, the Doha Declaration or even epidemics—a medical word with huge financial ramifications.

But it was the US who were taking a particularly hard line and they would have rather walked away from the discussions than concede any ground on intellectual property. In negotiations, the G77—the low and middle income countries— were pitted against each other with the US claiming that out of them, it was only Brazil, Mexico and India who cared about TRIPS.

Aware that the negotiation would stall, the EU stepped in to agree text. As a sop to Brazil, Mexico and India, the US like-minded groups have allowed the inclusion of TRIPS in exchange for no mention of the Doha Declaration or epidemics.

Campaigners point out this is a hypocritical stance saying that the US has invoked the Doha Declaration themselves for compulsory licenses NCDs medicines and technologies in the past. But also say that this diversionary tactic might not work—public health crises are also referred to in the declaration and countries can individually self-determine what constitutes a public health crisis in the first instance.

The real concern is that this will leave triggering of TRIPS flexibilities and the Doha Declaration open to interpretation—as many aspects of the declaration will. Country representatives are busy preparing their allotted five minute speeches for the meeting whilst lobby groups—all competing to make themselves heard— are drafting dossiers offering their interpretations to coincide with the summit start on 19 September.



Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

More information about the Ip-health mailing list