Two UN Agencies Come Out In Support Of Extension Of TRIPS LDC Waiver 22/05/2015 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 5 Comments 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)The United Nations Development Programme and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS have issued a joint statement supporting a request by least-developed countries to extend a waiver allowing them to abstain from enforcing patents on pharmaceutical products. In a release, UNDP and UNAIDS say they back a request made at the World Trade Organization Council for the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) by least-developed countries (LDCs) to extend a waiver past its current deadline of 1 January 2016. Meanwhile, public health groups are advocating at this week’s World Health Assembly (WHA) to get support for the waiver extension. LDCs benefit from a TRIPS waiver allowing them to refrain from enforcing patents on pharmaceutical products until 1 January 2016. In parallel, LDCs also benefit from a general exemption, covering all products, until 2021. LDCs are seeking to extend the particular exemption for pharmaceutical products indefinitely, until such a country graduates from LDC status to become a developing country. At the last TRIPS Council meeting in February, a proposal to extend the pharmaceutical waiver was put forward by Bangladesh on behalf of the LDCs group (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 25 February 2015). UNDP and UNAIDS are calling attention “to the urgent and compelling case for the international community to take all measures possible to protect the health of people living in least-developed countries (LDCs).” “Millions of people rely on access to affordable, assured quality generic medicines,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said in the release. “WTO Members have before them a critical opportunity to help least-developed countries to reach health and sustainable development goals -failure to support them could put millions of lives at risk,” he added. Access to adequate healthcare, including affordable medicines, remains a key challenge in most LDCs, the joint release said, and “the flexible intellectual property arrangements currently available to LDCs are a crucial tool for improving health.” The release mentions access to medicines, such as sofosbuvir, a treatment for chronic hepatitis C, which is unaffordable for LDC populations, sold for more than US$ 80,000 for a course of treatment in some developed countries. “A company in Bangladesh, making use of its LDC status, has launched its own version for US$ 900 for the 12-week course. While this price is also out of reach of many patients in LDCs, with the possibility of other manufacturers emerging in LDCs there is potential for greater competition and further price reductions,” the release said. UNDP and UNAIDS “urge all WTO Members to support the LDC request for a transition period on pharmaceutical related patents and clinical data for as long as a country remains an LDC.” Health Advocates Urge Waiver Extension On the margins of the 68th World Health Assembly, three non-governmental organisations – Third World Network, Knowledge Ecology International, and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) – organised a press briefing yesterday on the issue. According to Rohit Malpani, director of policy & analysis for the MSF Access Campaign, who was a speaker at the press briefing, MSF is a strong supporter of the LDC TRIPS waiver extension. “The LDC extension allows developing countries to import new medicines, irrespective of their patent status, into their countries and provide them to patients in need,” he told Intellectual Property Watch. “MSF is concerned that pressure by developed countries may lead to LDCs having to compromise and not seek a full extension. We have seen such pressure in previous discussions held with respect to the LDC waiver, whether for a general extension or during the initial discussion for a pharmaceutical waiver,” he said. “The existing waiver until 2021 is inadequate for the needs of many LDCs and does not provide the certainty required to encourage producers of low-cost medicines to invest in selling drugs into LDCs at affordable prices,” Malpani said. In March, the IDA Foundation, a worldwide supplier of essential medicines to low-and medium income countries, backed the request by least-developed countries (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 30 March 2015). The pharmaceutical industry, meanwhile, questioned the immediate need for a waiver extension while the 2021 extension covers all products (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 1 May 2015). According to an NGO source, one solution sought by developed countries might be to extend the pharmaceutical waiver until 2021, with the aim of aggregating the two waiver into a single one for the next extension. 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 Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."Two UN Agencies Come Out In Support Of Extension Of TRIPS LDC Waiver" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.