17-year extension of pharma waiver – voices from NGOs

Last Thursday the US and the LDC Group reached agreement on a 17 year
exemption from patents and test data protection for pharmaceutical
Products. The agreement also includes waivers from mailbox and exclusive marketing
rights obligations. The LDCs’ request for pharmaceutical exemption for as
long as a country remains a LDC was mainly opposed by the US government.
Read here what NGOs in the health sector think about this deal.

Rohit Malpani, Director Policy and Analysis, Médecins Sans Frontières
Access Campaign:
For the world’s poorest countries to be granted only a 17 year exemption
on implementing intellectual property for pharmaceuticals is essentially
kicking the can down the road, forcing this difficult debate to resurface.
Unless least-developed countries are granted an exemption until they
graduate from their status as LDCs, they’ll have to keep revisiting this
debate.
The mixed bag of support for an indefinite LDC exemption at the WTO had
the European Union in support; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis
and Malaria unfortunately sitting by silently; and the United States
government vehemently opposing. We applaud the European Commission’s
efforts to fully accept the LDC request, and hope the Commission continues
to put the needs of people first. It’s baffling that the Global Fund did
not stand up in support of people’s access to low-cost generic medicines
for the world¹s poorest countries. The US has denied the world¹s poorest
countries the security and peace of mind of an exemption until they
graduate as a LDC. The deal shows that the US government is more
interested in backing the commercial interests of multinational drug
companies in lieu of doing what¹s fair for sick people in the world¹s
poorest countries.²

Prerna Bomzan, LDC Watch:
“It is outrageous that the most vulnerable segment of the international
community had to struggle to defend their basic right to health. Such
negotiations makes a mockery of Special and Differential Treatment for
LDCs and of justice, human rights and sustainable development which are
purportedly championed by the US”

Chee Yoke Ling, Third World Network:
The deal reached is a slight improvement over the previous transition
period which was for 14 years and without a mailbox waiver, but it is a
far cry from the LDC Group¹s original request to the TRIPS Council for a
pharmaceutical patent exemption linked to a country¹s graduation from LDC
status, and what is needed to deal with the public health problems in
LDCs,² —

Jamie Love, Knowledge Ecology International
“The decision to extend the WTO waiver of drug patent rules for 17 years
is a better outcome than the 10 year waiver proposed by USTR head
Ambassador Michael Froman, but it is also a disappointment, and falls
short of what was asked and needed.  Least developed countries need to
amend their patent laws, so that the ability to make, import and export
generic drugs will not be restricted by drug patents. Any temporary
waiver, even one for 17 years, makes it less likely that governments will
change the laws on the books.  The previous waiver did not lead to the
types of legal reforms that make sense for very poor countries, for that
reason.   The typical previous response to a temporary WTO wavier,
embraced by many, including PEPFAR funded NGOs, was to ask LDCs for
non-enforcement of patents. In the short term, that will probably
continue, but at the same time, USTR and the EU are pushing for changes in
the rules on the enforcement of drug patents, and expanding liability for
third parties who can be held liable for infringement of patents, even
across borders.  USTR aligned itself with drug companies, to prevent a
more sustainable and durable change in WTO rules and national patent laws.
The Obama Administration trade policy continues to favor drug companies
over poor people, and to prop a system that needs to be fixed and changed,
and not defended.”

Professor Brook K. Baker, Health GAP (Global Access Project) &
Northeastern U. School of Law, Program on Human Rights and the Global
Economy:
A needlessly short period of freedom from pharmaceutical monopolies gives
WTO least developed country members space to breath but not to flourish as
they continue to struggle with poverty, technological deserts, and
developmental challenges on every front.  By insisting first on 10 years
and then drawing the line at 17 years, the US once again reveals itself as
the bullyboy for Big Pharma, willing to do any dirty work needed to
champion its global hegemony over the elixirs of life or death.

Ellen t’ Hoen, independent consultant in medicines policy and law:
“It is good news that there is agreement on the LDCs request for an
extension of the pharmaceutical waiver. But puzzling that the US felt it
had to play hard to get with the 34 poorest countries of the world instead
of joining the consensus to grant to request without a time limit” ­

Patrick Durisch, Berne Declaration:
The opposition of the US, but also to some extent of Switzerland, to a
legitimate permanent pharmaceutical waiver for the LDCs is
incomprehensible and inconsistent with their own development cooperation
policies. 17 years is definitely a too short period in view of the
enormous public health needs and economic vulnerability of the LDCs. The
pressure to limit the duration of the waiver can be interpreted as a
denial to the right to development.

This entry was posted in LDC transition period, Patents, US International Trade Commission (USITC). Bookmark the permalink.

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