[Ip-health] WHO to Colombia Minister of Health: Unaffordable drug prices are a legitimate reason for issuing a compulsory license

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri May 27 13:37:25 PDT 2016


Submitted by Andrew Goldman <http://keionline.org/user/57725> on 27. May
2016 - 22:08

*(More on Colombia here: http://keionline.org/colombia

On May 25, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) wrote a letter to
Colombia's Minister of Health, Alejandro Gaviria, responding to a request,
on May 23, 2016, for "specific advice with respect to the current procedure
of issuing a compulsory license for the cancer treatment imatinib."

The two page letter (Copy available here
was signed by Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the Assistant Director-General for
Health Systems and Innovation for the World Health Organization. Dr. Kieny
reports directly to the WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

The letter refers to prior examples of compulsory licenses on medicines,
references the authority granted through international agreements, and
states plainly that "Unaffordable high prices of essential medicines,
including for non-communicable diseases, are a legitimate reason for
issuing a compulsory license."

Kieny notes that "unfortunately" the patent holder of imatinib has "so far"
not agreed to negotiate a lower price for imatinib, expressing "hope such
negotiations can take place at the soonest." But also makes it clear that
the WHO "remain at your disposal to assist you in line with the Mandate
conferred to WHO by the Global strategy and plan of action on public
health, innovation and intellectual property" to provide "technical support
to countries that intend to make use of the flexibilities contained in the
WTO TRIPS Agreement as recognized by the Doha Declaration". Kieny ends the
letter by saying "I wish you success in providing access to essential
medicines to the people of Colombia."

The WHO cc'd the letter to four other key officials in the government of
Colombia, plus Eduardo Pisani, the Director General of the International
Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).

*Andrew S. Goldman, Counsel for Legal and Policy Affairs, Knowledge Ecology

"The WHO advised Colombia that under the WTO agreement on intellectual
property rights, Colombia has 'the freedom to determine the grounds upon
which such licenses are granted.' The letter addresses the most important
issue, can countries use compulsory licenses to permit competition when
cancer drug prices are too high. The answer is yes. "

*James Love, Director, Knowledge Ecology International*

"The World Health Organization has a mandate to provide technical
assistance countries that want to use compulsory licensing on drug patents.
For many countries, this is a new legal procedure, and they face pressure
from big companies and from the United States and other governments. The
WHO response was timely, clear, and made it clear that the WHO will support
countries that use compulsory licensing when drug prices are too high."

More information about the Ip-health mailing list