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COPY = RIGHT : Let poor countries access generic ARVs

07 - 11 - 2002

Drug companies are using several ways to block generic access in developing countries :

1. patents : drug companies use their patents to stop poor-country governments from making or importing cheap, generic HIV drugs of their own ;

2. company/government agreements : drug companies use pseudo-philanthropic agreements ("Accelerated Access Initiatives") with needy governments in order to force poor countries to forgo their sovereign WTO-recognized right to make and import generic versions of the drugs, even while the generics remain 5 times cheaper on average ;

3. WTO : drug companies use their corrupt allies in the US and EU administrations in order to block the Doha WTO process that was tasked by the Qatar Trade Ministerial Summit in November with ensuring that poor countries may not only import but also export generic health products.

On the whole, generic versions are still 80% cheaper than "discounted" patent versions. This makes a huge difference in terms of human lives, since high-burden countries are so poor that any unexploited price reduction immediately excludes thousands from accessing lifesaving therapy, thereby condemning them to die of aids.

This further means that the prices of the generics must come down much lower than their present levels - otherwise the very poorest will never have access. The only way to scale up competition between generic makers today is to scale up the drug market for which they must compete : to have every poor country switch its HIV drug supply from the North monopoly patent-based manufacturers to the South generic competition-based manufacturers. Now that WHO is vouching for more and more of the generics’ quality, there can be no reason left not to take that essential.

Purportedly philanthropic agreements between monopoly manufacturers and poor countries are thus doubly criminal : in the immediate term they deprive very poor PWAs from cheaper medication that they could afford, and in the medium term they serve to blocks the needed global price war on HIV drugs that is required to ensure broadest and fastest access to aids treatment.

Act Up-Paris therefore demands that patent-based ARV-makers :

- renounce all their ARV patents in the developing world ;

- release all poor countries from all anti-generic conditions attached to their purported philanthropic price discounts, such as conditions against local production, generic importation or purchase from competitors ;

- quit blocking the legal possibilities, recognized by the WTO, for developing countries not only to make or import generic versions of patented health products, but also to export them.

Contact media : Gaëlle Krikorian - tel : 658 520 872 - + 33 6 0917 7055 - galk@noos.fr

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