Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Mar 25 04:05:14 PDT 2015



ON 25 MARCH 2015.

Geneva, March 2015.  UNITAID is concerned about the expiry of the
‘pharmaceuticals exemption’ for least-developed countries (LDCs) which
originates from the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public
Health.  Due to this exemption, least developed countries (LDCs) are not
obliged to grant or enforce patents and data protection for pharmaceuticals.

“As an organization that funds projects to improve access to medicines for
HIV, TB and malaria in 94 countries, including many LDCs, UNITAID strongly
supports the request by the least-developed counties for an extension of
the transition period for pharmaceuticals.” said Lelio Marmora, Executive
Director of UNITAID. “This exemption has facilitated access to affordable
medicines in LDCs, and UNITAID urges WTO Members to unconditionally approve
the request by the LDCs.”

The TRIPS Agreement makes it mandatory for countries to grant patents,
including for medicines. “Patents can spur innovation, but can also delay
generic competition, and have a negative impact on access to medicines,
especially in poor countries.”

However, TRIPS also contains a number of flexibilities and safeguards.
These flexibilities can be, and have been, used to ensure access to
medicines – clearly an important social and public health objective for
many WTO Members, as well as for the international community. The
flexibilities and safeguards essentially relate to instances where
countries have the freedom to interpret, define or defer the implementation
of certain provisions of the Agreement.

One of the most important flexibilities for least developed countries
(LDCs) is that they are not obliged to implement key sections of the TRIPS
Agreement – notably the granting of patents and the provision of data
protection – with regards to pharmaceuticals. This exemption will expire at
the end of this year. Yet LDCs still face many constraints with regard to
ensuring access to medicines for their populations. In this context, LDCs
have requested an extension of this important exemption “until they cease
to be a least developed country”.

“UNITAID believes that it is crucial that countries can make use of ‘TRIPS
flexibilities’ in order to safeguard access to medicines.” said Mr Marmora
“This certainly should apply to the most vulnerable members of the
international community: the LDCs.”

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