[Ip-health] TWN Statement on Patents and Health during WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP 20)

alexandra bhattacharya alexandra.bhattacharya at gmail.com
Tue Jan 28 05:16:32 PST 2014

Thank you Mr.Chair,

 We take this opportunity to congratulate African Group and the Development
Agenda Group for submitting the proposal on patents and public health (SCP
*/16/7)*. We fully support this proposal and urge the Member States
initiate a work program as found in this proposal.

  Access to medicine is one of the critical elements to ensure the
enjoyment of the right to health. The 23rd session of the Human Rights
Council adopted a resolution on access to medicines. The recently concluded
session of WHO EB also approved a resolution of access to essential
medicines. Both these resolutions contain operational paragraphs which
encourage Member States to use the TRIPS flexibilities to ensure access to

 Similarly, discussions in the context of post 2015 development agenda as
well as deliberations on sustainable development goals also flag access to
medicines as an important issue. In the absence of access to affordable
medicines global efforts on universal health coverage would fall apart.

 Even though access to affordable medicines depends on many factors such as
domestic production, public procurement, efficient distribution etc. patent
rights can play an adverse role by limiting the competition in
pharmaceutical market. Unlike these other factors there is limited policy
space for member states to address the barriers posed by patents on access
to medicines.

 Therefore it is the right time for WIPO to move forward on this issue.
Failure to do so would affect WIPO's credibility as an organization
promoting the right to health.

 While more and more countries are taking measures to amend their national
laws to optimize the scope of flexibilities to meet the access to medicine
needs there are efforts from pharmaceutical multinational corporations and
their associations to block such efforts.

 The leaks in South African media clearly show that there is a collective
effort by pharmaceutical companies to unleash a campaign against the South
African's government's legitimate efforts to address public health

Recent press reports from India with regards to statements made by the CEO
of Bayer also show the disregard placed by pharmacuetical companies on
ensuring access to medicines in developing countries.

 Similarly in 2013, the pharmaceutical manufacturers association of America
lobbied the US political leadership to mount political pressure on India
against the use of TRIPS flexibilities. This lobbying has resulted in an
investigation against Indian generic manufactures by the international
trade commission, a US government body.

 We urge the Director General of WIPO to either not engage or to disengage
from pharmaceutical companies and their associations who are involved in
the efforts to block use of flexibilities.

 We also urge the Member States to condemn the efforts of the
pharmaceutical industry to undermine the use of TRIPS flexibilities and
their disregard to human rights.

 We hope the deliberations should identify the constraints faced by
developing countries to effective and efficient use of flexibilities in
their patent law to ensure access to medicines.

 Finally, we urge the Member States put people's health above profits.

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