MEPs concerned about poor countries' access to drug patents

By EDRi · July 18, 2007

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted on 12 July 2007 a
resolution on a protocol amending the World Trade Organization agreement on
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of 1994.

The protocol, that would make permanent a 2003 waiver from the TRIPS
agreement, is to be ratified by the EU 27 governments. The waiver was meant
to allow poor countries to deal with public health emergencies by importing
cheap generic versions of patented drugs produced under a compulsory
licence. However, the waiver has not been invoked by any country since 2003
as the EP resolution notes.

David Martin, a British Labour deputy, complained of the fact that in four
years “not a single drug has been supplied to a single patient” and
continued by stating that what was asked from the Commission was to “commit
itself to give technical and political support in order to utilise the

MEPs are concerned that the TRIPS agreement on intellectual property rights
is preventing the development of affordable generic medicines and asks the
Commission and the Member States to provide financial support for
pharmaceutical technology transfer and capacity building for local
production of pharmaceuticals in developing countries. The EP also asks the
Commission to grant funding for R&D on poverty-related, tropical and
neglected diseases.

The resolution requires the Council to adopt a Joint Policy Statement with
the EP so that EU Member States may use all exception provisions of the
TRIPS Agreement under their domestic patent laws. It also calls on the
Council to limit the Commission’s mandate in the Economic Partnership
Agreements (EPAs), “in order not to negotiate pharmaceutical-related
TRIPS-plus” affecting public health and access to medicines, such as data
exclusivity, patent extensions and limitation of grounds of compulsory

Olli Rehn, the commissioner for EU enlargement, stated that the Commission
was decide to avoid any provision in the EPAs that could affect access
to medicines and made an appeal to the pharmaceutical companies to use a so
called “tiered pricing” system, in order to sell medicines cheaper in poor

Some of the MEPs consider the issue was not taken seriously by all
representatives of the EU institutions. The Italian liberal Gianluca Susta
said that the EU institutions should not lay low and play deaf to the
failure of the waiver but ensure funding for medicine production in poor

Swedish Green Carl Schlyter said that “12 million people a year die from
tropical diseases because they don’t have access to drugs” although patents
should provide incentives for research and development.

The Parliament’s position was welcomed by the humanitarian organisation
Médecins Sans Frontières who consider that the MEPs are trying to push the
Commission and the member states governments to find a solution to the

More measures needed on access to medicines says EP resolution (12.07.2007)

Parliament Delays WTO IP Health Deal Till EU Boosts Bilateral Drug Access

More measures needed on access to medicines says EP resolution (12.07.2007)

Which comes first, medicine or profit? (14.07.2007)