Global Focus Emerges On Avian Flu08/11/2005 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (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)IP-Watch and its Global Health Policy News are non-profit independent news services and depend on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.Strategy for a possible outbreak of avian flu has been elevated from a national to an international level with a high-level meeting on a “plan of action” being held this week at the World Health Organisation. Intellectual property rights are on the agenda, but the focus during the first day and a half was bio-security and animals.David Nabarro, United Nations System senior co-ordinator for avian and human influenza, told Intellectual Property Watch that although he preferred not to use the words “compulsory license” as being part of the agenda at the 7-9 November meeting, WHO Director General Lee Jong-wook had made sure that the production of drugs and vaccines would be a key point at the meeting. But “I am not mentioning those words myself,” he said.“We must decide how to approach policies on research, development and production of vaccines and anti-virals, reviewing manufacturing capacity and access issues,” Lee said in his opening remarks.Later in the day Lee told Intellectual Property Watch that intellectual property rights would be a theme at the meeting.The WHO has indicated that in terms of vaccines it would be preferable that the nations that have the capacity to produce their own do so. On Tuesday morning, the meeting discussed the need for international collaboration for developing vaccines both for birds and humans, as well as issues such as production and supply, a WHO source said.Other WHO sources said that Roche, the producer of Tamiflu, believed to be the best medicine for an outbreak of bird flu in humans, had become more open to discussion during the past weeks since the avian flu debate hit the media. The sources said the company seemed to favour the option of sub-licenses, which allow other companies to produce Tamiflu in a collaboration. Roche has also scaled up its production of Tamiflu. The company has promised to donate three million courses of 10 capsules each to the WHO by spring next year, and will store the supply for the WHO, sources said.This donation is not meant to cover all countries but rather be a tool which the WHO can use as a “firewall” to stop an outbreak in a specific geographic area, a WHO source said. Although a lot of confusion surrounds this point, the WHO has not provided any specific indication for what quantity of anti-virals countries should stockpile, for example to cover 25 percent of the population which the European Union has advised, but rather has told countries to stockpile if they are capable of doing so, a source said.James Adams, World Bank vice-president for operations policy and country services, said in a Monday interview that the issue of intellectual property rights would probably come up during the meeting, but he emphasised that the focus of this meeting was the on the animal side as it had been proven that if contained in animals, a pandemic in humans could be avoided, and thus on developing strong country programmes. Adams also asserted that public-private partnerships were the way forward as has been the case with HIV/AIDS.Margaret Chan, representative of the WHO director-general for pandemic influenza pointed out that Roche, the Swiss company with rights to Tamiflu, had scaled up its production and offered sub-licensing deals and “collaborative manufacturing.”There are some 600 participants at the meeting, which is a collaboration with the World Bank, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.Chan noted that countries had to gear up their preparedness but said that although anti-virals had received a lot of attention in the media, a constellation of measures were needed. “Anti-virals are effective but not a silver bullet,” Chan said.During the first day of the meeting, countries such as China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Netherlands, Kenya, and Japan shared their experiences and preparedness (or lack thereof) for a bird flu pandemic. The chairman summarised the atmosphere as “cautiously optimistic.”WTO TRIPS Consultations OngoingSeparately, ministers are involved in consultations with the World Trade Organization Deputy Director General Rufus Yerxa on the Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). On the agenda are, among other issues, the relationship with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and extension of geographical indications (GIs). Both issues are being discussed for the agenda of the December WTO ministerial in Hong Kong.But a delegate said that a Monday meeting was “uneventful, with members restating existing positions.” Yerxa said he would wait for the outcome of the ministerial meetings this week to see if this created a “more positive atmosphere” and then hold further consultations later this week or early next week, the delegate said.The CBD issue relates to a proposal to negotiate in Hong Kong for an amendment to the TRIPS agreement to require patent applications to include a disclosure of the origin of biological materials and traditional knowledge, according to sources. The disclosure issue is related to consideration of the relationship of WTO to the CBD (see IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 28 October).GI protection means that products deriving their names from certain geographical locations, such as Parma ham or Swiss watches, could not be produced under the same name by anyone from another location. With the European Union as the main driver, some countries want the GI protection that wines and spirits currently enjoy under Article 23 of the WTO TRIPS agreement to be extended to all products deriving their names from geographical locations (see IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 28 October).Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (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"Global Focus Emerges On Avian Flu" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.