CAFTA’s Patent Protection Clauses ‘May Be Death Sentence’ if Access to Low-Cost AIDS Drugs Threatened, Opinion Piece Says
The proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement "may be a death sentence for many" HIV-positive people in the Dominican Republic and Central America because patent-protection elements of the pact could threaten access to low-cost antiretroviral drugs and other medications, Angelina Godoy, an assistant professor of law, societies and justice at the University of Washington's Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, writes in a Seattle Times opinion piece (Godoy, Seattle Times, 4/14). CAFTA would eliminate tariffs and other barriers to trade in goods, agricultural services and investment and impose intellectual property rights on medicines. AIDS advocates worry that the agreement also could place limitations on compulsory licensing, which allows a government to authorize itself or a third party to make a generic version of a patented product, including antiretrovirals, with payment of reasonable compensation to the patent holder. The deal also would 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 create patent-like barriers to market entry of generics, even where no patent exists (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/6). If implemented, the intellectual property provisions in CAFTA could "raise prices on antiretroviral medications by undercutting market competition," Godoy says. "[E]xtending the length of patents means curtailing the lives of patients," Godoy writes, concluding, "A trade agreement that exchanges human lives for pharmaceutical profits is anything but 'free'" (Seattle Times, 4/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.