[Ip-health] The release on the 7 House member LDC letter, with formatting fixed.

Jamie Love james.love at keionline.org
Fri Oct 2 07:04:32 PDT 2015

This should be a bit easier to read.


Seven Members of House of Representatives Send Letter to USTR Calling For
Waiver of WTO Patent Rules for LDCs
Submitted by Andrew Goldman
2. October 2015

CONTACT: Zack Struver
+1 (202) 332-2670
zack.struver at keionline.org

Seven House Members Push U.S. Trade Representative to Support Indefinite
Waiver on Pharmaceutical Patents for Least Developed Countries (LDCs)

WASHINGTON — Seven members of the House of Representatives sent a letter
today, October 2, 2015, to Ambassador Michael Froman, urging the Office of
the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to support the request by
Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for an “indefinite waiver” of WTO
requirements to grant patents on pharmaceuticals.

The letter comes just two weeks before negotiations at the World Trade
Organization (WTO), where member nations will consider a request by LDCs
that they be exempt from issuing patents on pharmaceutical products until
they graduate from LDC status, as determined by the United Nations.
The representatives who sent the letter include Representatives Jan
Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Raúl
M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and
Sam Farr (D-Calif.).

In the letter to the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Michael
Froman, the House members wrote:

-----begin quote
“The joint LDC request reflects the continuing realities facing LDCs and
the extreme burdens that their populations would face absent an extension.
As you know, LDCs are the 48 poorest countries in the world. These are
countries that often lack even the most basic necessities; only 34 percent
of the population in LDC’s have electricity, as opposed to 85 percent
worldwide and 100 percent in OECD countries. They represent nearly 13
percent of the world’s population but only about 1 percent of the world’s
income, with an average $928 per capita income in 2014. In addition to
economic and financial challenges, they lack educational, technological and
manufacturing capacity, leaving them unable to respond to the massive
health burdens they face.”
-----end quote

Knowledge Ecology International recently eleased a briefing note with
additional data on Least Developed Countries, available on our website

The request for an indefinite waiver on the grant of drug patents for the
world’s poorest countries has widespread support, including from the
European Union (http://keionline.org/node/2319) and the Vatican (
http://keionline.org/node/2244). The Obama administration, however, is
attempting to block the indefinite waiver, and is pressuring LDCs to accept
restrictive conditions. Several public health and access to medicines
groups, including HealthGap, Knowledge Ecology International, Public
Citizen, Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders/MSF, sent a letter on Sept. 11
to USTR and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), objecting to the
US position on the LDC extension (http://keionline.org/node/2322).

LDC Watch, a group of civil society organizations based in LDCs, sent a
letter on Sept. 25, explaining the rationale behind the LDC request and
asking that the US offer its full support (http://bit.ly/1MNACW6).

On Sept. 21, Knowledge Ecology International asked the White House and the
Department of Commerce (http://keionline.org/node/2326) to investigate if
the USPTO and USTR actions violated President Bill Clinton's Executive
Order 13115, which protects sub-Saharan African countries’ access to
generic HIV/AIDS drugs.

The letter from the members of the House continued:

-----begin quote
“If the transitional period is allowed to end on January 1, 2016, we
believe those countries will be unable to meet essential health needs,
leading to preventable morbidity and mortality as well as global insecurity
and poverty. For those reasons, we believe that indefinite waiver of the
WTO obligations to grant and enforce pharmaceutical patents is necessary
and should be U.S. policy. Waivers should not end based on an arbitrary
date but should end only when a country no longer classifies as an LDC
under United Nations established criteria. We also believe that the LDC
joint submission for a permanent extension clearly meets the WTO
requirements that such requests be granted when they are ‘duly motivated.’”
-----end quote

James Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International said:

-----begin quote
“This is anything but an obscure trade issue. The WTO will decide, fairly
shortly, if the poorest countries on earth are exempt from WTO rules on
drug patents. These are countries that spend about $50 per capita annually
on health care. President Obama is now the main obstacle to a historic
agreement to protect nearly one billion persons living in the poorest
countries. It is incredible that our government wants to force high drug
prices in countries where incomes are less than $4 per day. The
Representatives signing this letter are among the few in Congress to
recognize the moral and practical reasons why it was a mistake to require
poor countries to grant patents on medicines, and among the few who are
willing to use their position to protect a vulnerable population. The 48
LDCs include the 34 poorest countries in Africa. In the Western Hemisphere,
only Haiti is poor enough to benefit from the drug patent waiver. The
request by the LDC group should be a non-controversial measure to correct a
historic mistake in the WTO rules. Any effort to limit or narrow the waiver
will harm poor people living in countries that cannot pay. It is in no
one's interest to make life worse for people people living in LDCs, or
health care more expensive, but that is the legacy that Ambassador Michael
Froman would embrace, enabled by an anti-poor White House and a technical
staff that is more responsive to drug company lobbyists than their own
moral compass or common sense. The seven Democrats in the House appreciate
the consequence of this trade policy decision, and the vulnerability of
persons living in extreme and appalling poverty."
-----end quote


James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
KEI DC tel: +1.202.332.2670, US Mobile: +1.202.361.3040, Geneva Mobile:
+41.76.413.6584, twitter.com/jamie_love

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