Letter |

Médecins Sans Frontiéres UNAIDS PCB Intellectual Property intervention

MSF intervention on UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board Intellectual Property

MSF welcomes the report from UNAIDS on intellectual property issues related to diagnosis and treatment of HIV.  The report confirms the challenges that IP barriers create for MSF since we started treating people living with HIV over fifteen years ago. We encourage UNAIDS to keep working on this issue as it is critical to ensure access to affordable medicines.

Today, MSF continues to face serious IP barriers to access affordable medicines and diagnostic tools that assure optimal care for our patients with HIV as well as co-infections such as tuberculosis and hepatitis C.  For instance, in the absence of generic competition due to patent and regulatory barriers, the lowest cost of providing a third line ART regimen is about 17.4 times higher than the lowest cost for first line treatment.   We expect that these barriers will only become more problematic, especially in middle-income countries. By 2020, 80 percent of all people living with HIV will live in middle-income countries.  Yet it is these countries that face multiple threats – flat-lining or declining funding; stricter intellectual property rules for medicines and health technologies   demanded through free trade agreements, especially by the United States, the European Union and Japan; higher medicine prices charged by drug companies who take advantage of the power granted to them under monopolies; and exclusion from industry-led voluntary measures such as voluntary licensing. 

UNAIDS has played a critical role around the world highlighting the challenges of intellectual property barriers, providing a voice to people living with HIV that otherwise cannot have a say in these discussions. UNAIDS has also been vital in documenting and speaking out against the negative impacts of strict intellectual property rules. We urge UNAIDS to continue to play a central role in ensuring that these IP barriers do not undermine access to medicines. UNAIDS provides value in documenting the negative impact of IP barriers, in calling for solutions such as the use of public health safeguards under the TRIPS Agreement or through voluntary licensing, and in warning against harmful IP provisions in free trade agreements.

We also note that UNAIDS should play a role in looking beyond just the high cost of drugs due to IP barriers, and start examining the role that IP plays in leading to higher costs for diagnostics, especially for viral load testing.  We hope that UNAIDS can look at how IP discourages innovation that addresses the needs of neglected populations, especially children with HIV.   In fact the impact of IP on access to medicines and innovation is just starting to be felt by public health programs.

It has never been more important for UNAIDS and governments to address IP barriers, especially in the wake of the UN High Level Panel Report on Access to Medicines that the UN Secretary General has welcomed and asked for appropriate follow up. The IP mandate for UNAIDS has just started. The next step is for UNAIDS to consider the relevant recommendations in the UN High Level Panel Report that UNAIDS itself or through support to Member States can help advance.

We look forward to UNAIDS continuing to play a central role defending the well-being of people living with HIV, and ensuring affordable medicines for people around the world, including the people MSF treats every day.  

Thank you.