Congress Should Vote Down CAFTA Because of Patent Protections on Drugs, Including Antiretrovirals, Opinion Piece Says
Approximately 275,000 HIV-positive people in Central America could "die needlessly" if Congress ratifies the Central American Free Trade Agreement because the agreement's patent protections might prevent patients from accessing less-expensive antiretroviral medications, Rahul Rajkumar, a member of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, writes in a Boston Globe opinion piece (Rajkumar, Boston Globe, 5/26). 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 repeat 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, 4/22). Although the U.S. trade representative has said there is "nothing" in CAFTA that would prevent governments from providing generic antiretrovirals, that claim is "false" because CAFTA's "protection for drug testing data ensures that while countries may be able to produce generic drugs, they won't be able to use them," Rajkumar writes. If Congress is "serious about promoting a culture of life," it will vote down CAFTA and tell the Bush administration to renegotiate the agreement's intellectual property provisions, Rajkumar writes (Boston Globe, 5/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.