Group of African Nations Applies to WTO for Permission to Manufacture AIDS Drugs
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Africa's "major free trade bloc," has applied to the World Trade Organization for permission to manufacture generic versions of patented antiretroviral drugs, Reuters reports. COMESA, which comprises 20 African countries, has determined that HIV/AIDS is "strangling trade and development across Africa" because the disease has resulted in the deaths of many working-age Africans, according to COMESA Secretary-General Erastus Mwencha. Mwencha added that COMESA nations are spending a large amount of money to import patented medicines, which further hurts the region's economy. He said that COMESA has applied for a license that would allow any country in the bloc to produce cheaper versions of patented antiretroviral drugs and export the medicines to any other in the group. "We want the WTO to treat COMESA as one region so that drugs manufactured in one country can be sold in all member states without problems," Mwencha said. COMESA's application immediately follows an announcement by WTO ministers that they have agreed upon a proposal that would allow developing nations to manufacture cheap versions of medicines for HIV/AIDS and other diseases during public health emergencies. COMESA member nations include Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Seychelles, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Mauritius, Angola, Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Swaziland, Burundi, Eritrea, Djibouti, Comoros and Madagascar (Reuters, 11/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.