WTO Upholds 2003 Waiver Allowing Developing Countries To Import Generic HIV/AIDS Medications
The World Trade Organization general council on Tuesday agreed to make permanent a 2003 waiver that allows developing countries to issue compulsory licenses in order to import generic drugs for diseases such as HIV/AIDS if a country confirms that it cannot manufacture them domestically, BBC News reports (BBC News, 12/6). The council voted on the measure after developing countries, specifically many African nations, called for WTO to address the issue prior to its ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, which will be held from Dec. 13 to 18 (Agence France-Presse, 12/6). U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said, "This is a landmark achievement that we hope will help developing countries devastated by HIV/AIDS and other public health crises." However, some groups criticized the measure. Medecins Sans Frontieres in a statement said that there is no proof the provision increases access to medicines, adding, "This decision shows that WTO is ignoring the day-to-day reality of drug production and procurement." The measure, which must be ratified by Dec. 1, 2007, needs approval from two-thirds of the organization's 148 members to become permanent, according to the AP/Washington Post (Cage, AP/Washington Post, 12/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.