[Ip-health] The Wire: UN Political Declaration on TB Likely to Be Re-Opened, With Pushback Against the US

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Jul 26 21:52:37 PDT 2018


UN Political Declaration on TB Likely to Be Re-Opened, With Pushback
Against the US

South Africa has “broken silence” on the UN’s declaration on TB, and the
draft will be re-opened for talks.

Anoo Bhuyan

New Delhi: The UN has released the final draft of the political declaration
on the ‘Fight against Tuberculosis,’ dated July 20.

The Wire had secured one of the last iterations of this declaration and
broke the story last week: After two months of negotiations and pressure
from the US on developing countries, the final versions did not have
references to TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights)
flexibilities, even while several earlier iterations did.

The UN’s public release of this draft – versions of it were so far only
being leaked to the public – triggered what is known as a period of
“silence.” The draft was “under silent procedure” until late evening on
Tuesday. This period is for delegations to obtain final approval from their

But soon after this period ran out, South Africa has now reportedly broken
the silence, by expressing objection to the text of the final published
draft. Breaking the silence is considered a rare action at these

South Africa’s bold stand will re-open the text for negotiations. The text
has already been negotiated in New York for the last two months with
officials from around the world, including India.

What has India been saying in New York?

While there has been speculation that India also took a bold stand along
with South Africa, Indian officials at India’s Permanent Mission to the UN
have declined to confirm this.


Thanks @SushmaSwaraj ji for your quick action as usual; India once again
stood firm & forced reopening the Draft Text in UN’s High Level Meeting in
Newyork on TB, expressing displeasure over deletion of TRIPS flexibilities
clause. Good news for public health in India & the world


Respected @SushmaSwaraj ji, don’t cave into US pressure tactics, TRIPS
flexibilities r key to protecting public health. TB declaration: US pushes
for diluting 'protecting access to affordable medicines' in draft

11:25 AM - Jul 25, 2018 · New Delhi, India

However, two senior officials posted to India’s Permanent Mission to the UN
in New York, have said differing things about the status of the negotiation.

One said, “Negotiations are not on for now as differences remain” and
“Negotiations are not moving anywhere.” Another official involved in the
process said, “The negotiations on the issue are underway.”

Sources told The Wire that while developing countries like India, Brazil
and South Africa had been resisting the removal of references to TRIPS
flexibilities until the end, India then capitulated – India agreed to drop
the references to this from the operative section of the text and contend
with just one passing reference to this, in the perambulatory section.

Significantly, one of the senior Indian officials also said that the G77
countries are looking at a harmonisation across two political declarations
which are currently being hashed out at the United Nations – one on
non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and this one on TB: “It is a complex
process with two negotiations going on simultaneously – TB and NCDs. The
G77 had already asked for extension of silence on TB so as to work on a
common strategy on both TB and NCD.”

Civil society watchers have raised issue with drafts of the NCD declaration
as well, saying that it doesn’t have enough of a focus on affordability of
medicines, with patents being an obstacle to that. The Indian bureaucrat’s
comments are significant because while TB is seen as the developing world’s
burden, NCDs affect developed countries and developing countries both. And
a “common strategy” in these two agreements would need to see harmony on
issues of affordability of medicines, for both NCDs and TB, which will
impact both developed and developing countries.

South Africa, on the other hand, has been pushing ahead at a fast pace, in
tackling its tuberculosis burden. Last month the South African government
released data and a statement on the results of the introduction of new TB
drug bedaquiline, into the treatment regimens of South African TB patients.
Of 200 patients put on the drug, three-quarters of them had a “favorable
outcome” including “cure and treatment completion.”

With its TB burden being the highest in the world, India has committed to
eliminate tuberculosis by 2025, even though the global commitment on this
has been set to 2030.

Global activists have already begun to put pressure on governments as well
as Janssen, the pharmaceutical company which manufactures bedaquiline, to
drop prices on the drug.

TRIPS is a multilateral agreement with members of the World Trade
Organisation. It deals with intellectual property and among other things,
it extends rights and benefits to developing countries to control the
prices of medicines and keep them affordable.

Having language that reaffirms commitments to TRIPS flexibilities, matters
to developing countries, who not only struggled to get these provisions
introduced into the TRIPS but now struggle to keep that in the memory of
big countries like the US.

“Constantly removing this language, over time, dilutes the global belief
and commitment to TRIPS,” said a researcher on trade and patent issues,
speaking on the phone from Geneva.

One of the last mentions of TRIPS flexibilities in the operative portion of
the global declaration, was in the draft of July 10, which The Wire
reported on Saturday. It had said:

“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…”

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

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