[Ip-health] The Wire: Draft UN Declaration on TB: Reference to Affordable Medicines Dropped

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Sat Jul 21 04:01:39 PDT 2018



Draft UN Declaration on TB: Reference to Affordable Medicines Dropped

India and other developing countries had been resisting US pressure to
dilute the global declaration.

Anoo Bhuyan


New Delhi: Officials from around the world have been debating for two
months now the text of the final declaration which is due to be released at
the first-ever UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on Ending
Tuberculosis in September this year.

The Wire has reviewed the current draft of the declaration – one of the
last iterations of it – which was prepared on Friday, July 20. This draft
will probably be discussed in what may the last round of talks on Monday.

The draft has completely dropped critical language which developing
countries were fighting for – language that would protect the rights of
these developing countries to access affordable medicines via TRIPS
(Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) flexibilities.

Developing countries like India, Brazil, South Africa and Egypt had been
pushing back against the US in the many rounds of talks in New York over
this text so far.

While the US did not want the declaration to mention TRIPS flexibilities,
these countries along with others in the G-77 and the EU had so far been
resisting the pressure. Previous drafts of this text had included mentions
of TRIPS flexibilities.

The lack of mention of TRIPS flexibilities in this draft, at this final
stage, has caused alarm in the global public health community, which has
been watching the negotiations closely. The fear is that the US has managed
to strong-arm developing countries, against their best interests, to give
up affordable access to medicines for TB.

The matter should be of urgent concern to India as the government has
committed to eliminating TB by 2025, even though the global goal for this
has been set as 2030.

A press release from Medecins Sans Frontières said,

“The U.S. is exerting extreme pressure on other negotiators by refusing to
sign the declaration at the U.N. General Assembly in September if language
such as paragraph (PP19) that “recognizes the importance of affordable
medicines” and “urges countries to enforce intellectual property rules in
ways that promote access” is included.”

“We’re appealing to all countries, including those in the Group of 77, and
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, that have a high burden of
TB, to urgently stand up right now against bullying that aims to keep
medicines out of the hands of your people who need treatment,” said Leena
Menghaney, South Asia head of MSF’s access campaign.

Thiru Balasubramaniam at Knowledge Ecology International said, “The
[Donald] Trump administration has engaged in a full court press to purge
the political declaration of the UN High Level Meeting on Tuberculosis from
references to the WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public
Health and the use of TRIPS flexibilities.”

In the area of public health, TRIPS allows countries certain flexibilities
in order to protect their citizens from medicines being unaffordable due to
patent monopolies. For example, it legally allows countries the ability to
issue ‘compulsory licenses’ which can override patents, allow generic drugs
and drop prices.

The UN High Level meet will release this ‘Political Declaration on Fight
Against Tuberculosis’ in September and the text is vital because it will
indicate the direction of the global community in acting against TB. It
will cover areas such as research funding as well as development of new
drugs and treatments.

What earlier drafts said

The Wire has reviewed versions of this “draft elements paper” from May 30,
June 8, June 25, July 10 and the current draft, from July 20.

As of the version on July 10, the provisions on TRIPS flexibilities were
still maintained in the text, in the preambular as well as operative

For example, the operative portion in this draft had a substantial section
on TRIPS, with the EU and G-77 countries in support of keeping that
language in, and the US stand on it being “delete para”.

“The use to the full, of existing flexibilities under the Agreement on
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) specifically
geared to promoting access to and trade in medicines; and ensure that
intellectual property rights provision in trade agreements do not undermine
existing flexibilities, as confirmed in the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS
Agreement and Public Health…”

However, the July 20 draft does not have this section at all. It only
mentions TRIPS flexibilities once, in the perambulatory section, and there
is no mention in the important operative section:

“further recalling the 2001 WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and
Public Health which recognizes that intellectual property rights should be
interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of the right of Member
States to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to
medicines for all, and that intellectual property rights are an important
incentive in the development of new health products”

The US media has been reporting on this matter. Earlier this month, Stat
reported on US pressure on this declaration: “Amid growing frustration over
the cost and development of tuberculosis medicines, the U.S. government is
pushing changes in global policy at a United Nations meeting.”

In June, Politico Europe reported that the US and EU were both trying to
strike off language on “delinking” in this TB declaration. Delinking is the
idea that research and development costs should not be linked to the price
and volume of sales of a medicine, as this will keep the prices of
medicines low.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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