[Ip-health] MSF intervention at the 25th WIPO Standing Committee on Patents

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Mon Dec 12 06:42:02 PST 2016

MSF intervention at the 25th WIPO Standing Committee on Patents

Médecins Sans Frontières welcomes the continuing discussions by the
Standing Committee on the issues of health and patents, and the limitations
and exceptions to patents. We urge the Committee to deepen these
discussions to allow member states to explore policies to facilitate access
to affordable medicines and implement public health safeguards in their
patent laws. This Committee is being held at a critical time, and comes in
the wake of the United Nations’ Secretary General having welcomed the final
report that was delivered by his High Level Panel on Access to Medicines in
September. MSF notes that WIPO contributed to the formulation of this
report through the Expert Advisory Group of the High Level Panel, and would
like to urge WIPO and the member states to take full consideration of the
analysis and recommendations provided by the report in the future work of
the Committee.

In our day-to-day work, MSF continues to face challenges in securing access
to more affordable sources of medicines and diagnostic tools; and we note
that this issue of access is particularly difficult in middle-income
countries. Today, a third-line treatment regimen for HIV is priced over 17
times more than the lowest price of first-line treatment, because patent
and regulatory barriers block generic competition and the wide availability
of more affordable generic sources. Countries that legitimately use
compulsory licences remain under tremendous political pressure, as we saw
with Colombia earlier this year, which had the threat of withdrawing
international support for the peace process used as a political bargaining
chip against the Colombian government’s attempt to curb the high price of
medicines. Facing this reality, MSF would urge three improvements in the
Committee’s work in light of the recommendations provided by the UN High
Level Panel report.

First, WIPO and member states should take concrete steps in assessing the
health impact of trade agreements and rejecting the proposals of TRIPS-plus
provisions on intellectual property. Despite numerous studies showing the
detrimental impact on access to medicines, TRIPS-plus provisions such as
data exclusivity and patent term extensions on medicines continue to be
pushed by the pharmaceutical industry and backed by the governments of some
member states. These proposals are pushed through trade agreement
negotiations such as the ongoing Regional Comprehensive Economic
Partnership agreement, which involves 16 countries in the Asia-Pacific
region. The High Level Panel report recommends countries to consider
rejecting TRIPS-plus intellectual property provisions and to conduct
thorough health impact assessments in trade agreement negotiations. We hope
WIPO and member states will integrate these recommendations in the
discussions under the agenda item on patents and health.

Second, WIPO and member states should address the lack of transparency in
patent information concerning medicines, vaccines and diagnostics, and
establish disclosure requirements for INN names in patent applications. The
High Level Panel Report explicitly recommends WIPO to “establish and
maintain publicly accessible databases with patent information status and
data on medicines and vaccines.” And “This information should be
periodically updated and consolidated by WIPO in collaboration with
stakeholders to develop an international, easily searchable database which
should include:

-       Standard international common names for biological products

-       International non-proprietary names for product, either as known at
the time of application or after the granting of a patent; and

-       Dates of granting and expiry.”

MSF notes the steps taken by WIPO in providing new chemical search
functionality in the PATENTSCOPE database. However, further steps are
needed in implementing the full recommendations set out by the High Level
Panel report. The disclosure of INN names should also be made as a
normative requirement in patent applications.

Last, WIPO needs to provide public health-oriented technical assistance,
with concrete follow up, on public health safeguards in member states’
patent laws. Many of the challenges facing access to medicines and
overcoming patent barriers have been repeatedly shared by member states and
observers. Patent ever-greening on medical technologies in particular
remains a critical hurdle. The High Level Panel report clearly recommends
WIPO to cooperate with other multilateral organisations and UN bodies,
to “support
governments to apply public health sensitive patentability criteria”, and
to “strengthen the capacity of patent examiners at both national and
regional levels to apply rigorous public health-sensitive standards of
patentability taking into account public health needs.” We urge WIPO to
implement these recommendations in its future work, and to review and
improve its technical assistance to member states with a better aligned
approach of facilitating access to medicines and innovation, as explicitly
recommended by the UN High Level Panel report.

Thank you.

*Joanna Keenan*

Press Officer

Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign

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