Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
WTO Chief ‘Very Optimistic’ That Plan to Broaden Access to Medicines Will be Developed by End of Year
World Trade Organization Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said he is "very optimistic" that WTO member nations will reach an agreement by the end of the year regarding how to increase access to medicines in developing countries, Reuters reports. "I'm sure we'll be there by the end of the year," Supachai said (Palmer, Reuters, 10/24). In November 2001, a WTO ministerial working group approved and issued a declaration stating that developing nations can override patent protections to manufacture medicines during public health emergencies. The declaration says that the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, which outlines international patent rules, "can and should be interpreted and implemented in a manner supportive of WTO members' right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all." The text also states that each WTO member has the right to issue compulsory licenses and the liberty to determine when to issue the licenses. Supachai met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick last month to discuss how developing nations could use waivers to issue compulsory licenses and differential pricing for patented treatments (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/30). Supachai said that it is "essential" that a plan be drafted by the end of the year so that overall WTO negotiations can remain on track for conclusion by January 2005 (Reuters, 10/24).
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