Los Angeles Times Examines How Central American Free Trade Agreement Could Affect Access to Antiretroviral Drugs
The Los Angeles Times on Friday examined HIV/AIDS advocates' concerns that the Central American Free Trade Agreement could affect access to antiretroviral drugs. Generic versions of antiretroviral drugs are the "main weapon" against HIV/AIDS in the developing world, but intellectual property protections in the agreement could "drive up the cost" of such treatments, according to health advocates, the Times reports (Dickerson/Iritani, Los Angeles Times, 4/22). CAFTA would eliminate tariffs and other barriers to trade in goods, agricultural services, investment and the imposition of 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). The potential for barriers to drug access has "fueled opposition" to CAFTA throughout Central America, especially in Guatemala, where "public opinion has turned overwhelmingly against the trade pact" even though legislators passed the measure in March, the Times reports. Although the Bush administration has said the agreement would not compromise a government's ability to import or produce generic drugs in public health emergencies, many Guatemalans say higher prices and increased regulations would mean that fewer HIV/AIDS patients would be able to receive treatment, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 4/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.