Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
WTO Officials Unable to Reach Agreement on Expanded Access to Medicines for Developing Nations
World Trade Organization officials on Friday ended negotiations on easing pharmaceutical patent rules for developing nations without reaching an agreement, BBC News reports (BBC News, 11/29). WTO officials last week at the organization's Geneva headquarters began meeting to work out a compromise on how to implement a declaration approved in November 2001 by a WTO ministerial working group that would maintain patent protection for drug companies, while broadening access for developing nations to medicines such as antiretroviral drugs. Last month in Sydney, Australia, WTO ministers were unable to reach a "definitive agreement" on the declaration. According to the declaration, developing nations can override patent protections to manufacture medicines during public health emergencies. Further, 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 declaration also states that each WTO member has the right to issue compulsory licenses and the liberty to determine when to issue the licenses (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/27). WTO Chair Eduardo Perez Motta said that delegates needed more time to "take stock and to consult" in their home states. He added that he hopes to have an agreement prepared in time for the Dec. 10 WTO meeting and called on officials to "show more flexibility" when negotiations resume in the next few days, according to the Associated Press. U.S. Ambassador Linnet Deily said, "Our goal here is to fight the scourge of AIDS and other epidemics. Everyone needs to keep their eye on the ball" (Higgins, Associated Press, 11/29). However, a U.S. trade source said, "We're going to have a difficult time coming to an agreement" (Sparshott, Washington Times, 11/29).
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