[Ip-health] MSF urges incoming WTO Director General to make access to medicines a priority

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Wed May 8 01:01:55 PDT 2013

*Incoming WTO Director General urged to make access to medicines a priority*

*Least-developed countries fighting for TRIPS exemption extension*


*Geneva**, 8 May 2013* – On the appointment of Roberto Azevedo as Director
General of the World Trade Organization, international medical humanitarian
organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has warned the WTO and incoming
DG that access to medicines must become a priority. This includes allowing
least-developed countries to remain exempt from introducing intellectual
property rules, and maintaining the right of countries to use all
flexibilities at their disposal to ensure access to affordable generic

“One of the new Director General’s first jobs should be ensuring that
affordable access to medicines for all WTO Member States is a key
priority”, said Rohit Malpani, Director of Policy and Analysis for MSF’s
Access Campaign.

Mr Azevedo’s appointment comes as least-developed country (LDC) Member
States have requested to remain exempt from implementing the Trade-Related
Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement until they are no
longer classified as a LDC. A transition period for LDC Member States to
avoid the introduction of some intellectual property (IP) rules is set to
expire next month. The request for extension, submitted by LDCs in November
2012, would allow these countries to avoid monopoly protection for
medicines, diagnostics and medical devices, which is essential in enabling
access to low-cost versions of these products. LDCs also wish for an
extension not to include a clause that would prevent them from being
allowed to roll-back any existing IP rules.

However, developed countries, including the United States and countries
from the European Union, are resisting calls for an extension or to allow
LDCs to roll back existing IP rules.

“Least-developed countries already face an uphill battle to keep epidemics
such as TB and HIV under control”, said Dr Jennifer Cohn, Medical Director
for MSF’s Access Campaign. “It is critical to ensure access to newer
medicines for these countries and asking them to apply stringent IP rules
to the same level as developed countries would be catastrophic.”

MSF is also concerned that some Member States – in particular, the US – are
disregarding developing countries’ right to use TRIPS flexibilities to
ensure access to medicines. The US recently placed India – known as the
‘pharmacy to the developing world’ – on its Trade Priority Watch List over
using legally sanctioned means to improve access to an expensive, but
important, cancer medicine.

“I hope that Mr Azevedo will ensure that public health safeguards in the
TRIPS Agreement are respected by all Member States and that countries which
choose to implement those safeguards do so without fear of reprisal or
reproach from other Member States”, said Mr Malpani. “The ability of
countries to implement TRIPS flexibilities is vital to ensuring all people
– particularly those in remote and resource-limited settings – have access
to affordable medicines and essential medical care.”

Joanna Keenan
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
P: +41 22 849 87 45
M: +41 79 203 13 02
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: twitter.com/joanna_keenan


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