Global Petition to Support WTO Patent Rules that Improve Cheaper Drug Access to Developing World
The Third World Network, Oxfam International and Health GAP Coalition last week launched a global online petition to "demonstrate the strength of global public support" for World Trade Organization patent rules that "put people before the profits of powerful drug companies," according to the South African Health-e News Online News Service. The petition is addressed to President Bush, who is described in the statement as "a leading international figure whose government is blocking changes and clarifications to the [Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] Agreement that would mean cheaper medicines for people in developing countries." The current agreement states that by 2006 all WTO members must give drug firms 20 years' patent protection on their inventions. It includes the right to issue compulsory licenses, or permission for a local firm to copy an expensive patented drug while compensating the patent holder, when a patent holder is shown to be abusing its monopoly position. Further, while drug makers say that parallel importation of generic drugs conflicts with WTO rules on intellectual property, a TRIPS article says that the agreement does not cover parallel importation. Oxfam advocacy coordinator Mercedes Sayagues said that the groups hope to garner 250,000 signatures for the petition, as "mass support" is necessary for it to be successful. The petition can be viewed online on the Oxfam International Web site (Thom, Health-e Online News Service, 9/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.