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WTO and access to generics : Lamy must change sides

11 - 12 - 2002

Following the Intermisterial Conference in DOHA, the WTO member states began before the close of 2002 to try to resolve the outstanding question of exportation of generic drugs by producing countries to countries which do not manufacture these medicines.

Almost 40 million people affected by AIDS do not have access to life-saving medicines. And the great majority of countries most affected by the epidemic are not in a position to manufacture these drugs for themselves. The WTO must therefore urgently allow generic manufactures to produce, sell and export their products to countries needing these products, and allow the latter the ability to import medicines in necessary quantities and as soon as possible.

Recently, a group of developing countries forwarded proposals that could be applied immediately and would allow rapid access to generic medicines. These proposals provide a mechanism to guarantee respect for international rules, which makes further need for an arsenal of other regulatory mechanisms pointless.

For their part, Western countries are trying by all means to limit the manufacture and distribution of generic medicines and they appear more anxious to respond to the lobbyists of the drug industry than to protect the needs of the public health sector.

On the 14th and 15th of November, at a "mini" conference of the WTO that took place behind closed doors at Sydney, Pascal Lamy, European Commissioner for Trade, will represent the body of the member states of the European Union.

To impose a directive in Sydney that will not be a true solution will run counter to the discussions that took place in Doha. Moreover, this will reveal the inability of the agreements on intellectual property rights to adequately deal with an issue like healthcare which is so critical to world populations.

Up to now, in spite of numerous press statements supposedly in favour of the access to generics, in actual fact Pascal Lamy ignores the spirit of the Doha Declaration and the needs of those affected.

In Sydney, Europe must finally place itself on the side of developing countries and give millions of people who are ill the greatest possibility of sustained access to generic medicines.


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