South American Ministers vow to avoid TRIPS-plus measures

TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (June 06/01)
1 June 2006
Third World Network
www.twnside.org.sg

South American Ministers vow to avoid TRIPS-plus measures

The Ministers of Health of ten South American countries issued a
joint declaration on intellectual property committing themselves to
avoid "TRIPS plus" provisions in bilateral and regional trade agreements,
to facilitate the use of compulsory licensing and parallel importing and to
avoid broadening the scope of patentability and the extension of
patentable areas.

The Ministers said there was a significant increase in drug prices as a
consequence of the patent system, leading to the worsening of
the problem of access to essential drugs.

The Declaration of Ministers of South America over Intellectual Property,
Access to Medicines and Public Health was adopted in Geneva on 23 May by the
Health Ministers of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador,
Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The ministers met on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly.

Below is a report of the declaration.

With best wishes
Martin Khor
TWN


South American Ministers vow to avoid TRIPS-plus measures

Geneva, 24 May 2006: By Martin Khor (TWN)

The Ministers of Health of ten South American countries have issued a
joint declaration on intellectual property committing themselves to
avoid "TRIPS plus" provisions in bilateral and regional trade agreements,
to facilitate the use of compulsory licensing and parallel importing and to
avoid broadening the scope of patentability and the extension of
patentable areas.

Explaining the rationale for their commitments, the Ministers said there was
a significant increase in drug prices which affects government programmes
and consumers. They attributed this as a consequence of the patent system
which affects health products that are essential for the prevention and
treatment of serious public health conditions, leading to the worsening of
the problem of access to essential drugs.

They pledged to continue regional dialogue on IPRs and access to drugs,
leading to measures "that ensure the supremacy of the public interest over
commercial concerns."

The Declaration of Ministers of South America over Intellectual Property,
Access to Medicines and Public Health was adopted in Geneva on 23 May by the
Health Ministers of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador,
Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The ministers met on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly meeting here
this week. Intellectual property rights is a major agenda item at the WHA,
which will discuss the report of the WHO Commission on Intellectual
Property, Innovation and Health, and negotiate two resolutions relating to
IPRs and health related research and development.

The draft resolutions are strongly supported by developing countries, while
some developed countries have been opposing many parts of the drafts.

The South American Ministers’ Declaration said that access to medicines and
critical raw materials is an integral part of the right to health, which is
a basic human right of every individual and a fundamental prerequisite that
governments have a duty to ensure.

Medicines and critical raw materials are key in the healthcare of people.
Nonetheless, large populations particularly people in developing countries
lack or have very limited access to these health tools.

The provision of patents in the pharmaceutical sector has gained increased
relevance in the region since the enforcement of the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement.

The Ministers said they are aware of the soaring burden of diseases and
conditions that disproportionately affect their countries, and particularly
those illnesses that mostly affect women and children, as well as of the
health problems that are emerging or re-emerging, including neglected and
non communicable diseases.

Significant price increase is being recorded in the area of government
programmes related to pharmaceuticals and in the direct costs to consumers,
as well as in the market prices, said the Declaration. It added that this is
a consequence of the patent system which affects health products that are
essential for the prevention and/or the treatment of serious public health
conditions, leading to a deterioration of access to essential drugs.

The Ministers said their countries have in different ways adopted all the
flexibilities and safeguards in their national legislations, as provided by
the TRIPS Agreement and as reiterated in the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and
Public Health.

They added that a growing concern is emerging globally, made explicit in
several Resolutions and Declarations by international and intergovernmental
bodies, in relation to governments’ responsibility to grant access to
essential medicines and tools to respond to public health needs.

Both in the Andean countries’ group and in the MERCOSUR, Ministers of Health
have developed their work on the issue of access to essential medicines,
thereby considering aspects of intellectual property and public health.

The Declaration said a continued dialogue must be fostered at the regional
level concerning the impact of intellectual protection on access to drugs,
leading to the adoption of concerted measures in order to ensure the
supremacy of the public interest over commercial concerns.

In the action part of their Declaration, the Ministers declared their
commitment to undertake 7 sets of actions.

First, they committed to promote the implementation of the Doha Declaration
on TRIPS and Public Health in their own countries (and particularly the
decision of the TRIPS Council (Decision IP/C/W/405, dated 30/08/2003), in
relation to the provisions regulating paragraph 6 of the Declaration),
including the granting of compulsory licences and use of parallel importing
mechanisms.

Second, they committed to promote public awareness about the importance of
IPRs and Public Health in terms of the successful implementation of the
safeguards and flexibilities included both in the TRIPS agreement and in the
Doha Declaration.

Third, they committed to strengthen international cooperation initiatives
seeking technological capacity by means of (a) promotion of strategic
alliances for technology transfer; (b) promotion of strategic alliances for
the development of science, technology and innovation; and ( c) creation of
a Technical Assistance Network for their countries, to be limited to issues
of intellectual property that are relevant to health.

Fourth, they committed to maintaining the flexibilities provided in the
TRIPS Agreement in bilateral and regional agreements, while seeking to:

- facilitate the use of compulsory licences, parallel importing and "Bolar
exceptions";
- avoid the broadening of the scope of patentability and the extension of
patentable areas (for example: therapeutic methods, plants and animals), and
second uses;
- avoid the linkage between the granting of patents and the granting of
marketing approval, in addition to avoiding any other clause that may
include "TRIPS plus" arrangements.

[The process of marketing approval of drugs is undertaken by the health
authorities, and the process usually involves safety and efficacy
requirements; however there have been pressures by the United States in
negotiations on bilateral trade agreements that marketing approval for
generic versions of drugs be denied if there are branded versions of the
drugs that have been granted patents.]

Fifth, they committed to seek the active role of their Ministries of Health
in the negotiation of bilateral trade agreements, in the negotiation among
regional groups as well as in the process of modification, updating and
consolidation of national intellectual property rights norms, by means of:

- affirming the needs of the health sector with technical supports, based
on the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, and the UN Millennium
Declaration;
- training health professionals in the domain of IPRs, including their
current and future repercussions with regards to access to essential
medicines.

Sixth, they committed to promote and support the continued international
dialogue on the impact of patent protection on access to essential medicines
and critical raw materials, by means of research initiatives and exchanges
of experiences.

Seventh, they recommended the promotion of studies to monitor drug prices
and the effects of the TRIPS Agreement in the area of public health in their
countries, with the aim of identifying alternatives to the current system
that may contribute to the promotion of innovation and the transfer of
technology, while favouring social appropriation at affordable cost.

source: TWN