EU Commission misleading on the access to generics

Abraham Thomas

27 April 2006
The European Union Commission has, according to its press release today, urged the EU to accept amendments to WTO Agreement on Intellectual Property, which it says would pave the way to provide wider access to generic medicine. Médecins Sans Frontières describes this as utterly 'misleading'.

Tomorrow a subcommittee of the WHO Executive Board will discuss the report of the CIPIH. "This decision of the EU Commission to amend the TRIPs Agreement is based on a mechanism that has so far failed to prove it can increase access to medicines despite the fact that is has existed since 2003", says Alenxdra Heumber of the Access to Medicines Campaign of the Médecins Sans Frontières.
Ms. Heumber quoted the recently published report of the Commission on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH), which says, "The WTO decision agreed on 30 August 2003, for countries with inadequate manufacturing capacity, has not yet been used by any importing country. Its effectiveness needs to be kept under review and appropriate changes considered to achieve a workable solution, if necessary".

Going by the WHO recommendation Ms. Heumber says, seems to MSF as a much more sensible approach. Tomorrow a subcommittee of the WHO Executive Board will discuss the report of the CIPIH.
The European Commission's Press Release
Brussels, 27 April 2006

Commission urges EU to accept amendment to WTO Agreement on Intellectual Property to provide wider access to generic medicine.
The European Commission has today adopted a proposal that European Member States accept EU ratification of an amendment to the WTO Agreement on Intellectual Property to allow developing countries to benefit from exported generic medicines. It is the first time that a core WTO agreement has been amended. WTO Members agreed on the amendment on 6 December 2005, just before the WTO Ministerial Conference which took place in Hong Kong on 13-18 December 2005 (see IP/05/1537). The EU played an important part in these negotiations. The amendment completes a process that began at the WTO Ministerial Conference at Doha in 2001 on the WTO Agreement on Intellectual Property and Public Health. It will make permanent a provisional decision on compulsory licensing adopted by the WTO on 30 August 2003 (see IP/03/1189). European Member States are expected to today adopt the necessary changes to EU law to facilitate the implementation of the WTO TRIPs amendment.
What was agreed in the WTO in December 2005? On 6 December 2005, the WTO Members agreed to amend the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). This amendment would make permanent a provisional decision on compulsory licensing originally adopted on 30 August 2003. The WTO General Council has submitted the proposed amendment to the WTO Members for acceptance. Once accepted and in force, this amendment will complete a process that began in 2001 with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.
The existing rules on intellectual property provide that compulsory licences can only be authorised predominantly for the supply of the domestic market. The amendment will allow any WTO Member to export pharmaceutical products made under compulsory licence for the purpose of supplying developing countries with no or insufficient manufacturing capacities in the pharmaceutical sector. The new rules will be formally incorporated into the TRIPS Agreement. The amendment will take effect for the Members that have accepted it when two thirds of the WTO Members accept the amendment. WTO Members have set themselves until 1 December 2007 to do this. The waiver decision remains in force for each Member until the amendment becomes effective for that Member. The EC confirms its commitment to facilitate access to medicines for poor countries.
Following the waiver decision of 30 August 2003, the European Parliament and the EU Council have reached agreement in first reading on a Regulation on compulsory licensing which will enable the relevant authorities of the EU Member States to grant compulsory licences for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and their export to eligible importing countries. The new Regulation should be definitively adopted today.
The acceptance of the amendment to the TRIPS Agreement together with the new Regulation implementing the WTO Decision will confirm the EC commitment to the process aiming at facilitating access to medicines for poor countries.
For more information from the Commission:
Call Peter POWER +32 498 980348
Stephen ADAMS +32 498 963166
Email [email protected]
Contact Médecins Sans Frontières
Ms. Alexandra Heumber
Médecins Sans Frontières
Access to Medicines Campaign
EU Advocacy Liaison Officer
Rue Dupr, 94
1090 Brussels
+ 32 (0) 2 474 7509 (Dir off)
+ 32 (0) 47 951 4900 (Mob)
+ 32 (0) 2 474 7575 (Fax)

Abraham Thomas