[Ip-health] DHHS Listening Session on WHA 2018: Comment on Agenda Item 11.6 Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation, and intellectual property

Claire Cassedy claire.cassedy at keionline.org
Thu May 17 08:26:08 PDT 2018


DHHS Listening Session on WHA 2018: Comment on Agenda Item 11.6 Global
strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation, and intellectual
Posted on May 17, 2018 by Claire Cassedy

On Friday May 11, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
held its annual listening session in advance of the upcoming Seventy-First
World Health Assembly. Comments were limited to 2 minutes, with no time set
aside for a question and answer session. On behalf of KEI, I offered this
intervention on the topic of the GSPoA and US pressures on other Member
States seeking to increase access to medicines in their countries:

KEI Comments on Agenda Item 11.6 Global Strategy and Plan of Action on
Public Health, Innovation, and Intellectual Property
HHS Listening Session – May 11, 2018
My name is Claire Cassedy and I work with Knowledge Ecology International,
a nonprofit non-governmental organization that focuses on access to
medicines as it relates to intellectual property rights.

At the upcoming WHA, we urge the United States to reaffirm the rights of
Member States to exercise the legal actions afforded to them by the
Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement to
increase access to medicines in their country, and for the US to act in
accordance with this reaffirmation.

The Global Strategy states that, “Intellectual property rights do not and
should not prevent Member States from taking measures to protect public
health.” This principle is echoed and buoyed by Element 5 of the GSPoA,
wherein it states its explicit support for the right of countries to use
the space in the WTO TRIPS Agreement for limitations and exceptions to
intellectual property rights.

In theory, the US, as a member of the WHO and a party to the TRIPS
Agreement, must abide by and respect these rights and the resultant actions
of other sovereign nations. In practice, the US repeats these phrases as a
sort of reflex before administering rebukes and threats to nations that
dare to take legal steps to increase access to medicines within their own

For example, the annual Special 301 Report issued by the Office of the US
Trade Representative explicitly states the US’s support for the TRIPS
Agreement and the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public
Health, but then faults countries for considering compulsory licenses on
life-saving medicines. The USTR has also applied other pressures on
countries that are considering compulsory licenses on medicines, one of the
most egregious examples being Colombia. In recent years, Colombia has
sought to increase access to medicines through TRIPS-afforded measures, and
yet the United States, via the USTR, has threatened to withdraw critical
funding for a peace deal, and more recently, sought to block Colombia’s
accession to the OECD.

As you work with Member States at the upcoming WHA, we urge you to support
global efforts to increase access to medicines, both in words and actions.

If the United States wants foreign countries to do more to support R&D for
new drugs, don’t ask them to raise drug prices. Instead, work for new
global norms to increase public sector support and subsidies for biomedical
research, to match the extensive efforts the U.S. funds through the NIH and
other agencies.

A PDF of the comments is available here:

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