Health Activists to Protest U.S. Position on TRIPS Agreement Today in Washington, D.C.
Six hundred health activists plan to stage a demonstration outside the Washington, D.C., offices of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick today to protest the United States' opposition to "liberalizing" the World Trade Organization's Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement, Reuters Health reports. WTO officials will meet next week in Qatar to discuss proposals to alter TRIPS. Health activists have "pushed" for a declaration that would allow nations to suspend drug patent rights in times of public health crises, a move that would help poor nations access cheaper AIDS drugs. However, the United States, Canada, Japan and Switzerland have opposed the declaration. U.S. representatives have offered an alternative draft that would allow some patent suspensions, but only in sub-Saharan Africa and only on drugs used "specifically" to treat HIV/AIDS. Activists criticized the U.S. stance, calling attention to the deal the government cut last week with Bayer to supply the anthrax drug Cipro at a reduced cost by threatening to circumvent Bayer's patent. "We should take public health crises at face value and imagine that there aren't intellectual property constraints. The (TRIPS) rules as written are the guiding light instead of the fact that 8,000 people are dying every day," activist Asia Russell of the AIDS group ACT UP said. Mark Grayson, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that alterations made to TRIPS "will not change the availability of any AIDS drugs in sub-Saharan Africa," adding that protestors are "trying to use the AIDS crisis to push for no patents at all" (Zwillich, Reuters Health, 10/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.