European Union takes its war on generic ARVs to the UN High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS
EU, US and Japan join hands to defend their “Immoral Blackmail” on AIDS Drugs
Groups call for immediate Global Moratorium on Free Trade Agreements & TRIPS-plus measures5 June 2011, Bangkok – As the global community meets in New York for the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS from 8 to 10 June 2011, networks of People living with HIV, health groups and treatment activists from around the world are calling for an immediate moratorium on all Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and TRIPS-plus measures.
The ‘Bangkok Declaration on Free Trade Agreements and Access to Medicines’ endorsed by groups and individuals from Asia, Africa and Latin America declares opposition to the increasingly rapid spread of FTAs that put the profits of multinational pharmaceutical companies ahead of people’s right to health around the world. The Declaration states that these “agreements are threatening to fundamentally and permanently undermine access to affordable medicines for millions of people. New HIV/AIDS medicines, Hepatitis C treatments, cancer drugs and life saving medicines for chronic diseases are all under threat.”
The ‘Bangkok Declaration’ comes at a crucial time as the EU, traditionally considered a champion of human rights, is taking aggressive positions on the draft Declaration of Commitment on HIV that is being negotiated among UN member states in New York. “We are seeing an unusual position being taken by the EU which is refusing to commit to any treatment targets and at the same time is working with the US to remove or significantly dilute any language in the text related to increasing access to safe, effective and affordable generic medicines,” said Matthew Kavanagh of Health GAP (Global Access Project), who is following the negotiations in New York. Language proposed by the nations facilitating the UN process, Botswana and Australia, on trade agreements and the removal of any and all TRIPS-plus measures from FTAs has been rejected by the EU. They are joined in this by the US and Japan. Japan has even stated that there is no evidence that greater patent enforcement in developing countries is creating barriers in access to medicines.
“This is a ludicrous statement,” said Rose Kaberia of the East African Treatment Access Movement (EATAM) who has challenged an anti-counterfeit legislation in Kenya that increases enforcement of medicine patents. “The greater enforcement of medicine patents has resulted in the seizure of generic medicines including ARVs by the EU which were on their way from India to Africa and Latin America. We cannot afford any such laws in the fight for Universal Access.”
Nor has the US learned from its past FTAs that have forced TRIPS-plus measures like data exclusivity on developing countries and have led to exorbitant medicine prices, for example in Guatemala where price differences of 845000% have been found in the same therapeutic segment. In Jordan, 79% of 102 off-patent medicines introduced in the market had no generic equivalent because of data exclusivity. The US is now trying to push TRIPS-plus measures in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations on Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile, Peru and possibly Thailand. Globally, developing countries caught in the TRIPS regime are struggling to provide second line treatment. Countries have adopted absurd eligibility criteria or are rationing newer, expensive HIV drugs that are patented in their countries. “With funding drying up as well and fewer avenues for decreasing the prices of ARVs, many countries are reluctant to adopt the new WHO guidelines for treatment. Any policy options to get generic supply for developing countries are being taken away in FTA negotiations with the EU, US and Japan,” said Lorena Di Giano of the Argentinean Network of Women living with HIV/AIDS.
“There is a marked change in the European leadership on access to HIV treatment today as compared to the one in 2004 at the Bangkok AIDS Conference that stood up in favour of access to generic medicines and against the US FTAs being negotiated at the time,” said Shiba Phurailatpam of APN+. At the time, the French government had stated at the 2004 AIDS Conference,
“Let’s implement the generic drug agreement to consolidate price reductions. Making certain countries drop these measures in favour of bilateral trade negotiations would be immoral blackmail. Since what is the point of starting treatment without any guarantee of having quality affordable drugs in the long term?”
An estimated 18.3 million people living with HIV will be in need of treatment by 2015. The need for treatment for co-infections like Hepatitis-C and TB will also increase. Prices for newer HIV medicines like etravirine, darunavir, raltegravir are already in thousands of dollars per person per year while medicines for hepatitis-C like pegylated interferon and telaprivir start at $10,000 and go up to $49,000 per treatment per person. Countries must have every legal and policy option at their disposal to provide this treatment in the most affordable and sustainable manner.
According to the latest information, the positions of the EU, US and Japan on intellectual property, access to medicines and free trade agreements have led to a deadlock over the crucial negotiations on the UN declaration.
Groups are calling on the EU, US and Japan to immediately withdraw ALL their proposals in paras 20, 21 and 52 of the Draft Declaration for the UN High Level Meeting. Contact:
In Africa: Rose Kaberia: firstname.lastname@example.org, + 254 734 811 025In Asia: Shiba Phurailatpam, Shiba@apnplus.org , +66 8660 00738
In the United States: Matthew Kavanagh, email@example.com, +1 202-486-2488
In Latin America: Lorena Di Giano, firstname.lastname@example.org ,+54 9223 4233 278