Countries Could Still Produce, Import Generic Drugs, Including Antiretrovirals, Under CAFTA, Opinion Piece Says
Under the Central American Free Trade Agreement, countries could "fully maintain their World Trade Organization rights to either produce generic drugs domestically or permit their import to address national public health emergencies," Richard Mills, assistant U.S. trade representative for public affairs, writes in a Boston Globe letter to the editor in response to an earlier Globe opinion piece (Mills, Boston Globe, 6/6). Rahul Rajkumar, a member of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, in a May 26 opinion piece wrote that 275,000 HIV-positive people in Central America could die needlessly if Congress ratifies CAFTA because the agreement's patent protections might prevent patients from accessing less-expensive antiretroviral medications. According to Rajkumar, 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, Rajkumar says (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27). However, Mills says that Rajkumar "dramatically misinterprets intellectual property law" in regard to CAFTA. U.S. trade agreements, including CAFTA, "allow for flexibility in tackling health emergencies while promoting environments that support innovation and the creation of new lifesaving drugs," including antiretroviral drugs, Mills concludes (Boston Globe, 6/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.