AIDS Activists Should ‘Rethink Stance’ Against U.S. Patent Support as Trade Rep Makes Two Concessions, Washington Post Says
AIDS activists who have fought the U.S. government's support for international patents "should now rethink their stance," as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has announced two "overlook[ed]" concessions, according to a Washington Post editorial. Although activists have succeeded in moving policy away from a "morally untenable insistence that poor countries epouse rich countries' patent system," they now risk "spoiling their achievement" by continuing to protest against a moderated international patent system that may encourage drug makers to withdraw from research into AIDS and other "politically charged diseases." In a speech yesterday, Zoellick announced two concessions to developing nations that cannot afford patented AIDS drugs: a deadline extension to 2016 to implement patent laws, 10 years beyond the World Trade Organization's deadline, and a moratorium of at least five years on WTO challenges to African nations' efforts to fight AIDS and other diseases. The editorial points out that these concessions, "[p]rovided they are implemented in good faith," will help "silence the controversy on drug pricing" but do not assist non-African nations that are "too rich to qualify for the 10-year extension [and] still face a terrible AIDS toll." Specifically, the editorial notes that Brazil and India are required to comply with the international patent system but face AIDS crises that "threaten to overwhelm public resources." To address this concern, the U.S. draft declaration for the Doha summit "reaffirms countries' rights to circumvent patent rules in case of health emergencies such as AIDS." The editorial concludes that it "would be a tragedy" if activists' "continued outrage" pushes drug makers away from research into AIDS (Washington Post, 11/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.