World Health Assembly Approves Resolution Supporting Public Health Considerations in Drug Policy
The World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organization, on Tuesday approved a resolution stating that countries and pharmaceutical companies should consider public health factors when making policies on access to drugs, including antiretroviral medications, EFE News Service reports. The resolution, sponsored by Brazil, addresses concerns from the pharmaceutical industry by encouraging research and development of new drugs and by recognizing intellectual property rights. The Brazilian delegates engaged in "difficult negotiations" with U.S. delegates, who had submitted a different draft resolution focusing on the defense of patents and intellectual property law. Brazil threatened to submit its own proposal for a vote and rejected attempts to combine the resolutions. The draft resolution was cosponsored by the African bloc, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Thailand and Indonesia and was supported by the European nations. The resolution calls on countries to reach a consensus on generic drugs before the September ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (EFE News Service, 5/27).
Talks Stalled Last Year
WTO talks in Geneva over generic drug access have been stalled since members missed a Dec. 31, 2002, deadline to reach an agreement. U.S. negotiators in February refused to sign a deal under the Doha declaration to allow developing nations to override patent protections to produce generic versions of drugs to combat public health epidemics unless wording was included to specify which diseases constitute a public health epidemic. The United States said that without such a list, developing nations could use patent overrides to produce generic versions of any patented drug -- such as Viagra -- that is not used to fight public health epidemics (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/2). Brazil, which is considered to be a pioneer in AIDS policy, last week was asked to assist WHO in the development of the agency's five-year antiretroviral treatment strategy (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/21).