Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Editorials on WTO Agreement on Access to Generic Drugs
Two newspapers today published editorials on the impact of a World Trade Organization agreement on the importation of generic versions of patented drugs, part of a larger round of trade negotiations to be discussed starting today at a five-day WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico. WTO talks on generic drug access for poor nations had been stalled since Dec. 31, 2002, when members missed a deadline to reach an agreement. However, negotiators on Aug. 30 reached an agreement allowing countries to issue a "compulsory license" to import generic drugs if the country confirms that it cannot domestically manufacture the drugs itself (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/9). Summaries of the editorials appear below:
- Newark Star-Ledger: The success of the drug access agreement "will depend on how it is interpreted and enforced," therefore the deal must "be carried out with a spirit that puts the attack on AIDS and the other killers first," a Star-Ledger editorial says. Ensuring that low-cost drugs are not imported back into rich nations is important, not only because reimportation could hurt drug company profits, but because it would "drain" supply and "cheat the poor people who need treatment," the editorial says. The effectiveness of the agreement will also depend upon the interpretation of an "ambiguous provision" that says the pact cannot be used as an instrument to pursue commercial or industrial interests, according to the Star-Ledger. "If that means no for-profit manufacturer or distributor can be involved at any level, the provision is a poison pill" that could endanger drug access, the Star-Ledger says (Newark Star-Ledger, 9/10).
- Washington Post: WTO negotiators this week should take "a deep breath" and try to remember that the current round of trade negotiations are meant to "lay a new commitment to the world's poor," a Post editorial says. While the agreement over generic drug access represents "some progress" toward achieving that goal, some are doubtful about whether the agreement will work as it includes "some ambiguous language" that could "kill off the normal commercial production of generic drugs," the Post says. The agreement could also be compromised if the United States, protecting the interests of pharmaceutical companies, "pressed countries not to use" the agreement, according to the Post. While the agreement "may be hailed in Cancun ... what matters is whether they improve access to drugs in the poorest countries," the editorial says (Washington Post, 9/10).