Statement |

One year on from the Doha Declaration ... public health before private patent rights?

Please email or write to Pascal Lamy, Trade Commissioner for the European Commission and Mr. Robert Zoellick, chief US trade representative and ask them, in your own words, to actively support a solution that allows developing countries to obtain affordable generic versions of vital new medicines.

Ask them to agree to a solution, by the agreed deadlines of December 2002, in line with developing country proposals and the spirit and letter of the Doha Declaration, which:
- is fair, permanent, and permits economically viable production
- is beneficial to all developing countries, and covers all health products
- is quick and simple for developing countries to operate
- is free from extra WTO obligations on developing countries

Pascal Lamy
Trade Commissioner
European Commission
Rue de la Loi 200

[email protected]

Robert B. Zoellick,
U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW
Washington D.C. 20508

[email protected]

This campaign action is supported by ActionAids Alliance; Consumer Project on Technology US; Health GAP, US; Health Action International; Lawyers Collective' HIV/AIDS Unit, India; Medecins sans Frontieres; Oxfam International; Thai NGO Coalition on AIDS and Thai Network of People with HIV/AIDS; Third World Network; Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa.

More background information on the Doha Declaration

Every year 15 million people die from infectious diseases. 40 million people live with HIV/AIDS and the numbers are mounting. Most live in developing countries, many are children, and women are often worse hit. Much of this illness and death could be prevented if poor people had access to affordable medicines. But currently, one third of the world's population does not have regular access to affordable medicines, and only a tiny percentage have access to HIV/AIDS medicines.

Over the last few years controversy has raged over the way in which World Trade Organisation (WTO) patent rules, by raising prices, prevent millions of poor people from being able to afford life saving drugs. Developing countries and campaigning groups around the world have demanded that the WTO puts public health before private patent rights.

As a result, in November 2001 the fourth WTO Ministerial meeting at Doha, Qatar, declared that WTO patent rules should not prevent WTO member countries from taking measures to protect public health or promoting access to medicines for all.

Ministers also agreed to correct an absurd and damaging anomaly in WTO patent rules that allows developing countries to import cheaper generic medicines, but restricts producer countries from exporting them. This restriction reduces poor people's access to affordable medicines, and denies generic industries the export markets they need to produce on an affordable scale. Unfortunately, rich countries and the multinational drug companies are trying to water down and limit possible solutions to this problem.

We believe that the rich countries must honour their commitments made at Doha and agree to lift WTO restrictions on exports of cheaper generic medicines.