AIDS Advocates in Washington, D.C., Protest Patent Protection Provisions in Central American Free Trade Agreement
Members of the HIV/AIDS advocacy group ACT UP on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., protested patent protection provisions included in the Central American Free Trade Agreement outside of a hotel where discussions about the agreement were taking place, Dow Jones International News reports (Dow Jones International News, 12/9). CAFTA would eliminate tariffs and other barriers to trade in goods, agricultural services, investment and the imposition of intellectual property rights on medicines, according to Inter Press News Agency. Advocates worry that the agreement could also place "dramatic limitations" on compulsory licensing, which allows a government to authorize itself or a third party to use a patented product, including HIV/AIDS medications, with payment of "reasonable compensation" to the patent holder, according to Inter Press News Agency. The deal would also require generic drug makers to "redo" clinical trials to obtain marketing approval and postpone using the trial results for brand-name company drugs for five years, which could "creat[e] patent-like barriers to market entry of generics, even where no patent exists," Inter Press News Agency reports (Mekay, Inter Press News Agency, 12/8). About 12 protestors were arrested during demonstrations outside the district's Mayflower Hotel, where the talks -- scheduled to end on Dec. 17 -- were held. Some protestors were dressed in hospital gowns, according to the Miami Herald (Bussey, Miami Herald, 12/10). Some protestors blocked traffic by lying across the street at the intersection of Connecticut Ave. and L Street, Dow Jones International News reports (Dow Jones International News, 12/9).
Robert Weissman, co-director of the Washington, D.C.-based corporate responsibility group Essential Action, said that the agreement "will undermine efforts by people in the region to gain access to generic drugs" (Miami Herald, 12/10). Jose DeMarco, a member of ACT UP who protested, said, "We have an obligation to stand and demand that [President] Bush put public health and access to medicines first, not his greedy drive to pander to Big Pharma" (Dow Jones International News, 12/9). Asia Russell of the not-for-profit health advocacy group Health GAP said, "The new intellectual property rules that the Bush administration is aggressively negotiating for in CAFTA will, we feel, obstruct access to medicine by increasing medicine prices and delaying or blocking generic competition" (Inter Press News Agency, 12/8). Mark Grayson, senior communications director for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "Patent protection is the only thing ensuring new medicines to combat" HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Rich Mills, a spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative, said, "We fully support countries having the ability to get access to life-saving medicines. Nothing in the agreement will detract from the Doha access to medicines" (Dow Jones International News, 12/9).