Let us not be mistaken that the resounding announcement by G.W. Bush, of a 10 billion dollars commitment to the fight against AIDS, serves essentially one objective: to renege on commitments made in November 2001, at the WTO conference in Doha, to allow access to generic drugs.
The financial contribution which G.W.Bush paints in glowing colors, amounts to 10 billion dollars over 5 years, of which 9 billion will be granted under bilateral negotiations to a limited number of countries.
After the United States blocked WTO negotiations over access to generic drugs last December, and a few days before negotiations resume discussions, this announcement is a clear attempt to put pressure on developing countries which do not have the capacity to produce drugs, in order to force them to purchase high-priced brand-name products and limit the production and distribution of generic products at all costs.
The recent announcements by multinational pharmaceutical companies during the Davos summit are part of the same strategy. Far from supporting a global response to the AIDS epidemic, these companies’ goals are to divert attention and to sweep the need for access to generic drugs under the rug. This is how one must read Pharmacia’s « philanthropic » offer to grant a non-exclusive license for delavirdine to several « worthy » countries. Pharmacia, on the verge of merging with the American giant Pfizer, is organizing a great advertising campaign for a product that it has never successfully marketed in Northern markets, while ignoring the question of generic drugs.
Simultaneously, pharmaceutical companies continue to frantically lobby governments and international institutions to block access to generic drugs.
Attempts by G.W. Bush and multinational pharmaceutical companies to manipulate public opinion, just a few days before WTO negotiations resume, should not, however, obscure the real stakes at hand. By 2005, international regulations on intellectual property will be applied to all developing countries. This is why the WTO must put measures into place that allow access to generic drugs, as quickly as possible.