Canada, EU Acting On Public Health Exceptions To WTO IP Law 15/10/2007 by David Cronin for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)By David Cronin for Intellectual Property Watch Canada has become the first country to notify the World Trade Organisation that it has allowed a drugs firm to use an international scheme for manufacturing generic versions of patented medicines introduced four years ago. Meanwhile, the European Union this week is continuing a debate over whether to adopt the international rules. In August 2003, the WTO gave poor countries the possibility to import versions of patented drugs made under a compulsory license in cases of a public health emergency and where the manufacturing capacity of their domestic industry is lacking. WTO rules were amended to permanently reflect this in December 2005. The Ottawa government has told the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva that it has authorised the Canada’s largest pharmaceutical firm Apotex to make TriAvir, an HIV/AIDS treatment drug. The medicine is to be exported to Rwanda, which stated in July that it wishes to import 26,000 packs of TriAvir over a two-year period, making it the first poor country to seek to invoke the 2003 decision (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 20 July 2007), which waived parts of the WTO Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in urgent public health situations. TriAvir is a single-dose combination of three drugs: Zidovudine (300 milligrams), Lamivudine (150mg) and Nevirapine (200mg). Under the terms of the authorisation, Apotex will make 15.6 million tablets for export to Rwanda. Information on each shipment, including the quantities involved, will be posted on the company’s website (apotex.com). Alexandra Heumber, an access to medicines campaigner with the humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomed Canada’s move, though pointed out that Rwanda already imports generic versions of TriAvir from India. “We still want to see the price that Apotex will offer to Rwanda,” she said. “It is welcome that after four years of negotiation, Canada has finally succeeded in using this [August 2003] mechanism but this will only have a real impact if the price of the medicine is lower than the current one [of Indian-made generics].” Meanwhile, the European Union’s three main institutions are to hold formal talks later this week (17 October) on whether the 27-country bloc should approve the WTO agreement on access to medicines dating from December 2005 that gave permanent effect to the August 2003 decision (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 6 December 2005). This week’s discussions will involve members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and representatives of EU governments and the European Commission. MEPs have said they are not satisfied with replies they have received from Portugal, the current holder of the EU’s presidency, and the Commission on questions relating to access to medicines for the poor. In July, the Parliament adopted a resolution stating that EU countries were free to use all exceptions to TRIPS to produce generic drugs for and export them to poor countries. MEPs are also asking EU governments to ensure that the Commission does not impede any government from using these exceptions. The 2005 agreement has to be accepted by two-thirds of the WTO’s 151 members by 1 December if it is to come into effect. After previously deciding to postpone its assent for the agreement, the Parliament is scheduled to the return to the matter at a plenary session on 22 October. The question of whether it will approve the agreement then is likely to depend on the outcome of the talks with the other EU institutions. David Cronin may be reached at email@example.com. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related "Canada, EU Acting On Public Health Exceptions To WTO IP Law" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.