[Ip-health] United States trade policy undermines access to antiretroviral medicines

Mohga Kamal-Yanni mkamalyanni at Oxfam.org.uk
Mon Jul 23 15:42:16 PDT 2012

July 23, 2012

International AIDS Conference 2012 Washington D.C. ? Despite commitment to 
End AIDS, the US government is introducing stronger intellectual property 
rules through trade agreements and bilateral pressure that will undermine 
the fight against AIDS by devastating the ability of developing countries 
to access affordable anti-retroviral medicines, international agency Oxfam 
said today.

?Under the influence of the multinational pharmaceutical industry, the US 
is pushing for enhanced monopoly protection on new medicines, including 
medicines to treat HIV and AIDS, thus driving up the cost for people 
living in poverty,? said Dr. Mohga Kamal-Yanni, senior health advisor for 
Oxfam.  ?Neither patients nor governments will be able to pay for 
anti-retroviral medicines urgently needed to address the pandemic.?

Strict intellectual property rules prevent low-cost generic versions of 
medicines from entering the market. Generic competition is the only proven 
mechanism for lowering prices. The US has pushed for stricter intellectual 
property rules especially via a new trade agreement ? the Trans Pacific 
Partnership, which is currently being negotiated between the United States 
and eight other countries in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America, 
with Mexico and Canada projected to join soon. 

The US has also sought to push other countries to implement enhanced 
monopoly protection via its annual Special 301 Report, which harshly 
criticizes countries that use legal measures under global trade rules to 
reduce unaffordable medicine prices ? a critical pre-requisite to 
providing treatment.

Without low-cost generics, it would not have been possible to initiate 
over eight million people on anti-retroviral therapy. Until generics 
entered the market over a decade ago, anti-retroviral therapy cost $10,000 
per patient per year. Thanks to generic competition, the price for 
first-line medicines in preferred fixed-dose combinations now costs under 
$80 per patient per year. 

Donors, including the United States Government, have relied heavily upon 
low-cost generic medicines to meet ambitious treatment goals. 

?Despite all the successes ? including of the US ? to address the 
pandemic, narrow commercial interests are threatening to undue the recent 
gains,? said Kamal-Yanni. ?It is stranger than fiction that the US is 
pursuing strict IP rules in developing countries such as Vietnam, which is 
one of 16 countries that receives assistance under the US Global AIDS 

The renewed US drive for strict IP rules through trade agreements is 
coming at an especially inopportune moment.  Scientific consensus has 
pointed to treatment as a great route to prevention of HIV and AIDS.  Yet 
donor financing for HIV and AIDS, in the aftermath of the global financial 
crisis, is leveling off even as the challenges remain enormous.  In 
particular, the costs of new and more effective treatments for HIV, many 
of which remain under monopoly patent protection, are as much as 10 or 
even 50 times the cost of first-line treatments. These high costs not only 
threaten to undermine the ongoing treatment of over eight million people, 
some of whom must switch to these new medicines as they develop resistance 
to first line medicines, but will hinder governments and funding agencies 
from expanding treatment to millions of others who desperately need it. At 
a time when more must be done with less, US trade policy threatens to put 
the drive for universal access into reverse.
?To end AIDS,  countries need to scale up access to affordable medicines,? 
said Kamal-Yanni. ?The US must stop demanding new intellectual property 
rules through trade agreements and direct pressure.? 

For further inquiry:
Laura Rusu in Washington, DC +1 202-459-3739 LRUSU at oxfamamerica.org

Notes to editors:

For more information, or to arrange an interview with an Oxfam 
spokesperson, please use contact above or Mohga Kamal-Yanni, on 
mkamalyanni at oxfam.org.uk   +44 77 76 25 58 84.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a pluri-lateral trade agreement currently 
under negotiation between the United States and eight other countries ? 
Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and 
Brunei ? with Mexico and Canada expected to join soon.  Negotiations 
started in 2009 and have not yet been completed.

Some of the strict intellectual property rules the US has pursued under 
the Trans Pacific Partnership include:

1.      Scope of patentability: Expanded scope of pharmaceutical patents 
to include new indications, new formulations and other minor changes
2.      Patent-term extensions: Extended patent monopolies for 
administrative delays
3.      Enhanced protections for clinical trial data by providing data 
4.      Patent linkage: Linking drug registration rights to patent status
5.      Enforcement rules: Expands enforcement of IP via customs and 
border officers, which could lead to unwarranted seizures of generic 
6.      Pre-grant oppositions: Eliminates right of other countries to use 
opposition system to curb frivolous patent applications and patent abuse. 

The US is also negotiating a chapter on pharmaceutical pricing and 
reimbursement that would disable the ability of Governments, including the 
US Government, to effectively set prices for medicines.
The May 10th (2007) Agreement was a new trade policy, agreed upon by the 
Bush Administration and the US Congress, to rewrite environment, labor and 
intellectual property rules in free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia 
and Panama.  New IP provisions included in the May 10th Agreement scaled 
back many of the worst elements in those agreements that would have 
undermined access to affordable medicines.


The international confederation of Oxfam [http://www.oxfam.org] is a group 
of independent non-governmental organizations from Australia, Belgium, 
Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, 
the Netherlands, New Zealand, Quebec, Spain, the UK and the US. 

Best wishes 
Mohga -dictating to the computer so please forgive  silly mistakes 
Dr. Mohga M Kamal-Yanni
Senior health & HIV policy advisor
Oxfam GB
John Smith Drive, Oxford, OX4 2 JY
Tel               +44(0) 1865 472290
UK Mobile   + 44 (0)777 62 55 884
Skype    Mohga Kamal-Yanni

Oxfam works with others to overcome poverty and suffering.

Oxfam GB is a member of Oxfam International and a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 612172.
Registered office: Oxfam House, John Smith Drive, Cowley, Oxford, OX4 2JY.
A registered charity in England and Wales (no 202918) and Scotland (SC 039042)

More information about the Ip-health mailing list