International Herald Tribune Examines Potential Effect of U.S. Bilateral FTAs on Access to Generic HIV/AIDS-Related Drugs
The International Herald Tribune on Wednesday examined how bilateral foreign trade agreements between the U.S. and other countries "pivotal to the fight" against HIV/AIDS could affect access to generic drugs used to treat the disease. Several developing countries fighting HIV/AIDS epidemics, including six in Central America, have signed FTAs with the U.S., and negotiations on agreements are taking place in Thailand and five southern African nations. According to government officials and public health experts in various countries, including Thailand and Brazil, FTAs often are an attempt by the Bush administration to "coax developing nations to barter away their patent-breaking rights," which allow the nations to produce low-cost, generic versions of the drugs, "in exchange for lucrative trade benefits," the Herald Tribune reports (Giridharadas, International Herald Tribune, 4/19). Under the World Trade Organization's intellectual property agreement, governments can approve the domestic production of generic versions of patented drugs during emergency public health situations if they fail to reach an agreement with the patent holder (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/17). Pedro Chequer, head of Brazil's national AIDS program, said, "If you prevent countries from using generic drugs, you are creating a concrete obstacle to providing access to drugs," adding, "You are promoting genocide, because you're killing people." However, U.S. officials have said the intellectual property policies in the FTAs are aimed at diseases other than HIV/AIDS. Victoria Espinel, an assistant U.S. trade representative, said, "I want to emphasize that there is enough flexibility in our free trade agreements to allow our partners to do what they need to do." Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said it is too early to determine whether the FTAs will be used to restrict access to HIV/AIDS-related medications, adding, "If we do see this in practice we should condemn it. But it really is in the interpretation of these agreements in very particular circumstances" (International Herald Tribune, 4/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.