When ‘Rights’ Cause Wrongs: Addressing Intellectual Property Barriers to Ensure Access to Treatment for All People Living with HIV is the title of the 2014 report by the NGO Delegation to be presented at the 35th PCB meeting, and is sure to bring on much discussion. We are indebted to the many IP experts and activists the world over who provided input on this report, as well as our civil society partners and friends who everyday face the implications of intellectual property barriers to access to treatment on the ground.
By John Rock, Asia-Pacific
Patents became part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement first in 1995 – called the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. Developed countries had one year to make sure their patent laws were consistent with TRIPS. Developing countries had to introduce TRIPS by 2000, but had until 01 January 2005 to have patents in place. Least developed countries were given more time, initially 11 years, extended to 2016, and now again until 2021.
Thank you, Madame Chair.
The NGO Delegation would like to highlight the relevance of Strategic Investment Framework (SIF) as it was referenced several times during the thematic segment yesterday on Combination Prevention.
The NGO Delegation appreciated his Excellency Ambassador Mboya’s willingness to dialogue on issues concerning civil society’s role in the SIF, capacity needs, alignment of initiatives and approaches to community mobilization and community-led delivery of programs and costs. We would like to highlight that community mobilization is essential in all aspects of HIV response; however, community mobilization will only work if there is sufficient investment in programmes for communities that critically enable them, including those programmes that inform communities of their rights related to HIV (prevention, treatment and non-discrimination) and help them to organize and demand improved HIV services and policy.
We welcome the recently developed tool “A people-centered investment tool toward ending AIDS”. We support its principles that are at the foundation of the framework notably:
encourages UNAIDS leadership to promote the implementation of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health as well as supporting countries to utilise the flexibilities permitted by the TRIPS Agreement in their internal regulations;
NGO Delegate for Africa, Nadia Rafif, speaks to intellectual property issues in the MENA region.
Ten years after the Doha declaration, intellectual property rights continue to constitute a major barrier to access HIV treatment.
According to the last UNAID/WHO report, Middle East and North Africa has the lowest rate of coverage of treatment. Only 8% of people living with HIV in need of treatment receive it. When treatment is available, the choice of ARVs is limited, in comparison of other regions in the world, due to the prices of medicines. A zapper sit tu parles d’une perspective globale!
Like in many Middle Income Countries, the number of patent applications in our region increased significantly since the implementation of the TRIPS agreement. Even the new alternative solutions like the Medicines Patent Pools failed to address this issue as the first negotiated license excluded many of our countries as well as several middle income countries, included the ones from the MENA region.
While, TRIPS allow several flexibilities to protect public health and access to medicines, several countries did not take advantage on that in their national intellectual property laws that now include several TRIPS+ provisions like restrictions on compulsory licenses, ban of parallel imports, data exclusivity, patents on new use etc.
One of the reasons for this is that these laws had been formulated before the Doha Declaration in a very difficult international context, at a time when developed countries were pushing hard for a strict interpretation of TRIPS.
An intervention by Incoming NGO Delegation for Asia and the Pacific, Ed Attapon Ngoksin of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition.
I am speaking on behalf of International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, a global network of treatment advocates that works in over 100 countries around the world on access to HIV-related treatment.
Communities of PLHIV in India, Thailand, South Africa, Brazil and others are known for their long-standing battle for the right to health. We seek justice and protection of their right to highest attainable standard of health in national justice system. In recent years, we witnessed that it is through juridical system the ‘big industries’ have filed a number court cases against governments which stand by their civil societies and communities PLHIV. My government remained on the “Priority Watch List” of the big country after having issued compulsory licenses to obtain affordable AIDS and heart disease medicines.
It is through this system that civil societies and community of PLHIV file a lawsuit to block the implementation of national legislation that have negative impact on access to affordable medicines. These laws, namely, ‘the Anti-Counterfeit Act’ – the law that aims to protect consumers against counterfeit medicines. Our constituents are very concerned that in many countries we work in, the implications of this law fail to categorically distinguish falsified medicines from generic medicines.
We recognize and welcome UNAIDS and Executive Director’s commitments to work with countries to explore and create an enabling environment for the implementation of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibilities. However, the Programme Coordinating Board NGO Delegation is very concerned that the supply of generic anti-retrovirals (ARVs), especially the newer, more optimal and forgiving treatment regimens, are under threat because of:
1) The deadline for TRIPS compliance;
2) Countries’ lack of understanding on TRIPS flexibilities and their national legislation barriers to the implementation of TRIPS flexibilities; and
3) TRIPS-plus that is now being imposed through bilateral investment trade agreements or economic partnership agreements.
Our constituencies feel strongly that there must be a compromise, or middle ground, between the rent-seeking behaviour of pharmaceuticals and access to drugs used to treat life-threatening illnesses such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. The life of patents must be shortened, and a fair royalty needs to be determined for the patent holder.
UNAIDS can protect access to medicines and the right to health by promoting anti-competition laws, generating evidence-based assessments of prospective trade agreements.
Note: These statements are not necessarily endorsed by the NGO Delegation, but are here for your reference and information.
Communities Living with HIV and Tuberculosis and affected by Malaria Delegation of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Position statement Free trade agreements (FTAs)