Paris — At the July 17 launch of the world’s largest scientific conference on HIV/AIDS in Rome, Act Up-Paris denounces the double-play led by the French Presidency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) pandering to major pharmaceutical companies. Act Up expresses grave concern about the future of the access to life-saving generic medicines for developing countries. Last Tuesday 12 July, the pharmaceutical company Gilead announced a deal with the UNITAID-sponsored Medicines Patent Pool. In a press statement, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government was delighted at this agreement. However, the deal excludes 5 million people living with HIV. Meanwhile, the European Commission (E.C.), with the silent support of the President Sarkozy, MoFA, along with the French Ministries of Health, Economics and Finance, have been pushing trade policies (including free trade and so-called anti-counterfeiting agreements) that aim to block the fabrication and the export of generic drugs. Without low-cost medicine, global commitments to achieve Universal Access to treatment will not be reachable.
The UNITAID Patent Pool is going to exclude many countries, including China, Brazil, Russia, Malaysia, Mexico, Northern Africa & Eastern Europe Regions and most South American countries. In addition, some other countries as Thailand, Botswana, Indonesia and many others will not have access to the new molecules being developed by Gilead. In total, 5 million people living with HIV will be excluded from the Patent Pool. Moreover, the agreement will exclude countries with important generic manufacturing capacity, and limit the production of medicines to Indian generic firms, thus restricting competition that lower the price of drugs. Gilead has placed limits in excess of WTO rules to prohibit local production in poor countries.
The exclusion of all these countries in the first deal between a drug company and the Patent Pool constitutes a dangerous precedent that risks limiting the scope of the programme.
The launch of UNITAID’s Patent Pool is taking place during a time of sustained assault against low cost generic drugs. For months, the European Commission has been negotiating so-called ‘free’ trade agreements with developing countries that impose longer monopolies for European industries. If the EC succeeds, the ultimate consequence is a considerable increase the cost of health care in countries poor countries struggling with health emergencies. A Free Trade Agreement with India, the ’pharmacy for the world’s poor’ threatens the ability of local generic producers to produce and export critically needed medicines that form the backbone of the global AIDS response.
Other negotiations underway with many Asian and African countries will have additional harmful consequences on production and export of generics, while restricting the ability of governments to use the flexibilities afforded by WTO’s TRIPS rules in intellectual property and deny country’s rights to issue compulsory licences. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), intentionally does not distinguish the difference between fake medicines and quality-assured generic drugs, empowering enthusiastic customs and border control officers to seize shipments of essential medicines and create drug shortages in southern countries.
’Activists and international agencies such as the Global Fund and WHO have said for months that these agreements will be very harmful to the production and export of generic medicines. The EU is trying to impose trade deals that protect European firms from competition by extending their patent monopolies,’ said Pauline Londeix, Act Up-Paris spoke-person. ‘The ’victory’ of the Patent Pool is also very relative, since so many countries are kept out. Worse, the irony is that medicines provided by UNITAID thanks to this agreement could be seized at boarders and destroyed for patent infringement,’ continued Ms. Londeix.
In June, France committed at a U.N. meeting in New York that at least 15 million people will be on antiretroviral therapies (ART) by 2015.
‘Sarkozy must end his hypocrisy right now, or we can say goodbye to the commitments France made at the U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS this June,’ said former Act Up president Jérôme Martin. ‘Instead of showing more pragmatism and put as most people as possible on ART today, Sarkozy seeks policies for the HIV pandemic to become forever out of control. Increasing French contribution to the global struggle to reach 15 by 15 would be enough to reverse the pandemic and to reverse the cost curve, while ensuring a place in history when AIDS is over. But instead, Sarkozy and his gang are only focusing on the huge benefits made by the pharmaceutical industry—letting millions of people die.’
During a meeting with AIDS NGOs and in a letter sent to Act Up-Paris , Nicolas Sarkozy reasserted few months ago his support to generic medicines and promised to organize an ’Inter-Ministerial’ meeting on the issue. But months later, we are still waiting, and none of the ministries, from the Avenue de Ségur (Minister of Health) to the Quai d’Orsay (MoFA) via Bercy (Ministry of Economics and Finances) has taken any position to support generics.
Despite numerous calls and mails sent by activists, Christian Masset, Director of Globalization and Development at the MoFA, Hervé Ladsous, Chief of Cabinet of Alain Juppé, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olivier Colom, the Diplomatic Councilor of Nicolas Sarkozy, Mathieu Gressier, the Chief of Cabinet and Diplomatic Adviser of Xavier Bertrand, the Minister of Social Affairs, are pleased with the current situation and tacitly or actively support free trade agreements and the anti-counterfeiting deals that threaten the lives of millions people.
Nicolas Sarkozy, Alain Juppé, Xavier Bertrand and François Baroin have to come to their senses and end this deadly hypocritical policy. Their lack of courage endangers many of the efforts led so far to stamp out HIV pandemic.
Act Up-Paris urges:
For an ’inter-ministries meeting’ to be organized without delay, and that France call to order the European Commission on its mandate ;
That Nicolas Sarkozy, during the IAS conference on AIDS in Rome, publicly reaffirms his support for generics and his opposition to all provisions within trade agreements being negotiated by the E.C. that will hinder the production and exportation of generics.
Act Up-Paris also urges all the countries excluded of the Gilead/UNITAID agreement to issue without delay compulsory licences on the drugs they need to control Aids including those produced by the firm, as international law allow them to.
Annexe: full list of the countries excluded of the Patent Pool/Gilead deal
1- Countries excluded from the Patent Pool/Gilead deal for Gilead’s drugs already on the market :
Asia: Malaysia, North Korea, China, Philippines
Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela
Central America: Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama,Middle East: Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan
Eastern Europe & Baltics: Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Rep, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Republic of Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovak Rep, Turkey, Ukraine
Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya
Island Nations: Marshall Islands, Micronesia
2- Countries that will be excluded from the Patent Pool for Gilead drugs still in trials :
Asia: Malaysia, North Korea, China, Philippines, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Indonesia
Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador
Central America: Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama
Middle East]] : Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan
Eastern Europe & Baltics: Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Rep, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Republic of Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovak Rep, Turkey, Ukraine.
Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya + Botswana + Namibia
Island Nations: Marshall Islands, Micronesia
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