Taiwan Approves WTO Amendment Allowing Countries To Export Lower-Cost Versions of Antiretrovirals, Other Drugs to Developing Countries
Taiwan's legislative body the Yuan on Thursday approved the first reading of a proposed World Trade Organization amendment that would allow pharmaceutical companies to make lower-cost versions of generic antiretroviral drugs, as well as drugs for malaria and other diseases, to sell to developing countries, the CNA/Taipei Times reports.
The proposed change would amend Article 31 of the WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. According to the CNA/Times, if approved, the amendment would make it easier for developing countries to import more affordable generic medications made under compulsory licenses if they are unable to produce the drugs themselves.
WTO's General Council has asked all of its 151 member countries to consider the amendment and inform WTO of their decision to approve or reject the amendment by Dec. 31, 2009. After the amendment has been accepted by two-thirds of the member countries, it will take effect within those countries. Fifteen WTO members -- including Australia, China, the European Union, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. -- already have accepted the amendment, Wang Mei-hua, director-general of the Intellectual Property Office in Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs, said.
According to Wang, final approval of the amendment in Taiwan could be reached in about two months. Wang said that Taiwan also will need to revise its current patent regulations to accommodate the amendment, adding that a revision of the patent statute has been drafted and will be reviewed by the Legislature.
Wang said the amendment would allow Taiwan to contribute to the international community, especially lower-income countries. "With its advanced pharmaceutical ability, Taiwan could offer assistance, especially to its 23 diplomatic alliances, most of which are [developing] countries," Wang said (CNA/Taipei Times, 5/16).