United States Should Allow Patent Exemptions for HIV/AIDS Drugs, Los Angeles Times Editorial States
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick should "refuse to let countries override lucrative patents on nonessential drugs" such as Viagra but should allow exemptions for "life-saving medications such as the protease inhibitors that can give a long life" to people living with HIV/AIDS, a Los Angeles Times editorial states. Zoellick last month at a World Trade Organization meeting was unable to "broker a compromise" between countries that wanted him to "essentially nullify all patents protecting" drugs produced by Western nations and U.S. companies that wanted all drug patents to remain intact (Los Angeles Times, 1/2). The impasse was declared shortly before the WTO self-imposed deadline of midnight on Dec. 20. The negotiations centered around the November 2001 Doha declaration, which states that WTO member nations can ignore pharmaceutical patents and domestically produce generic drugs in cases of public health emergencies. But representatives failed to reach an agreement on giving developing countries that do not have the ability to domestically produce medicines the right to import low-cost generic drugs, as the United States "insisted" that the deal should apply only to drugs used to treat certain infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/23). The editorial concludes, "America's ability to help the world will depend not only on the budget decisions that Congress begins making next week but also on how adeptly Bush officials manage to resolve trade disputes that are now preventing key medicines and biotechnologies from benefiting those who need them worldwide" (Los Angeles Times, 1/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.