Alongside WTO Ministerial, Officials Stress Gains On TRIPS And Health 16/12/2015 by Fredrick Nzwili for Intellectual Property Watch 2 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)NAIROBI, Kenya — On the sidelines of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Summit this week in Nairobi, senior officials from the Kenya government, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), civil society and others discussed a WTO intellectual property rights amendment on public health to better enable poor nations to access essential medicines [clarified]. This is one of the side events to the Ministerial, which runs from 15-18 December. Adan Mohammed, Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development Under the theme of Trade and Public Health in the context of ending AIDS, the event took stock of gains, challenges and opportunities for the long term accessibility of the medicines. The access was guaranteed through flexibilities reinforced at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar in 2001. A 2005 amendment to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) seeks to make permanent the 2003 temporary waiver referred to as the “Paragraph 6” solution because it fulfilled paragraph 6 of the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health. It incorporates additional flexibilities into the agreement to grant special compulsory licences for the export of the medicines, including generics. As of 15 December, 22 more signatures were needed to make the amendment permanent. Initially, WTO members had set themselves until 1 December 2007, but recently extended the deadline to 31 December 2017. Officials say action is urgently needed to accelerate the scaling-up of access to antiretroviral (ARV) medications for Africa’s 26 million people living with HIV, who require the medication to prolong their lives. “I urge African governments which have not signed [the agreement] to do so to guarantee the access to medicines, even as Africa continues to improve her pharmaceutical capabilities,” Adan Mohammed, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, told the high-level side event. “This is because the economic liabilities that come with HIV are enormous. HIV has shifted from being death sentence because of the cost required to debt sentence,” said Mohammed. With this cost burden, many African governments have been unable to pay for their medication fully and have continued to receive support from development partners, according to Mohammed. “So governments must identify options for long-term financing for this cost. This becomes more urgent as African countries move to the middle income bracket, where they have the potential to use various flexibilities within the TRIPS agreement,” he said. Tim Martineau, a director at the UNAIDS Executive Office, said it was extremely important for nations to continue to look at the issue of health and well-beings of humans in the context of private sector growth, trade and business. According to Martineau, the role of the private sector as engines of development is an increasing focus as nations look into the future, in the light of the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “It is imperative that we find ways to balance the interests of the health with the interests of private growth and industry,” he said. Globally, about 16 million of the world’s 34 million people living with HIV are now on antiretroviral treatment (ART), unlike 2001-2003 when only a few hundred accessed the medicines. Then, the treatment was about US$15,000 per person per year, but now it has come down as low as US$200 per year in Kenya, for example. “In the heart of that change and scale-up is the introduction of TRIPS flexibility,” said Martineau. “These are changes that are essential to continue to move forward the AIDS response.” These gains have been possible with support of the private sector, who have made investments in scientific research in ART medication, in HIV vaccine development and the value chain of production and access to medicines, said Reverend Canon Rosemary Mbogo, an Anglican clergy who chairs Kenya’s National AIDS Control Council (NACC). “Availability of HIV medication and investment in HIV prevention are not an option for governments, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. They are a primary economic and trade agenda,” said Mbogo. “HIV and AIDS provides the platform to rally member states that have not signed the TRIPS agreements to do so, to secure access and affordable medicines, including generics,” she added. At the same time, Professor Carlos Correa, special advisor on trade and intellectual property at the Geneva-based international organisation the South Centre and a panellist at the event, said the issue for countries was not to have the flexibilities written in the law, but to use them effectively. One particular case is compulsory licensing, according to Correa. It means the government may decide for various reasons to grant a certain company the right to use a patented invention without the consent of the patent owner, he explained. “Developed countries have extensively used compulsory licensing. It an old institution that has been used since 1925,” said Correa. “I say so because sometimes when a developing country issues a compulsory licence, there is a lot of political [pressure] about the licence. There are arguments in the press by some companies that this is weakening intellectual property system.” He told the event that this is a basic measure that governments can and should use to make essential medicines available. Image Credits: Fredrick Nzwilli 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 Fredrick Nzwili may be reached at email@example.com."Alongside WTO Ministerial, Officials Stress Gains On TRIPS And Health" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.