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Paris — At the July 17 launch of the world’s largest scientific
conference on HIV/AIDS in Rome, Act Up-Paris denounces the
double-play led by the French Presidency and the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs (MoFA) pandering to major pharmaceutical companies. Act Up
expresses grave concern about the future of the access to life-saving
generic medicines for developing countries. Last Tuesday 12 July, the pharmaceutical company Gilead announced a
deal with the UNITAID-sponsored Medicines Patent Pool. In a press
statement, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government
was delighted at this agreement. However, the deal excludes 5 million people living with HIV. Meanwhile, the European Commission (E.C.), with the silent support of the President Sarkozy, MoFA, along with the French Ministries of Health, Economics and Finance, have been pushing trade policies
(including free trade and so-called anti-counterfeiting agreements)
that aim to block the fabrication and the export of generic drugs.
Without low-cost medicine, global commitments to achieve Universal
Access to treatment will not be reachable.

Gilead excludes many countries from the Patent Pool

The UNITAID Patent Pool is going to exclude many countries, including
China, Brazil, Russia, Malaysia, Mexico, Northern Africa & Eastern
Europe Regions and most South American countries. In addition, some
other countries as Thailand, Botswana, Indonesia and many others will
not have access to the new molecules being developed by Gilead. In
total, 5 million people living with HIV will be excluded from the
Patent Pool
. Moreover, the agreement will exclude countries with
important generic manufacturing capacity, and limit the production of
medicines to Indian generic firms, thus restricting competition that
lower the price of drugs. Gilead has placed limits in excess of WTO
rules to prohibit local production in poor countries.

The exclusion of all these countries in the first deal between a drug
company and the Patent Pool constitutes a dangerous precedent that
risks limiting the scope of the programme.

Gilead’s announcement can’t hide the war against generic medicine.

The launch of UNITAID’s Patent Pool is taking place during a time of
sustained assault against low cost generic drugs.
For months, the
European Commission has been negotiating so-called ‘free’ trade
agreements with developing countries that impose longer monopolies for
European industries. If the EC succeeds, the ultimate consequence is a
considerable increase the cost of health care in countries poor
countries struggling with health emergencies. A Free Trade Agreement
with India, the ‘pharmacy for the world’s poor’ threatens the ability
of local generic producers to produce and export critically needed
medicines that form the backbone of the global AIDS response.

Other negotiations underway with many Asian and African countries will
have additional harmful consequences on production and export of
generics, while restricting the ability of governments to use the
flexibilities afforded by WTO’s TRIPS rules in intellectual property
and deny country’s rights to issue compulsory licences. The
Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), intentionally does not
distinguish the difference between fake medicines and quality-assured
generic drugs, empowering enthusiastic customs and border control
officers to seize shipments of essential medicines and create drug
shortages in southern countries.

‘Activists and international agencies such as the Global Fund and WHO
have said for months that these agreements will be very harmful to
the production and export of generic medicines. The EU is trying to
impose trade deals that protect European firms from competition by
extending their patent monopolies,’ said Pauline Londeix, Act Up-Paris
spoke-person. ‘The ‘victory’ of the Patent Pool is also very relative,
since so many countries are kept out. Worse, the irony is that
medicines provided by UNITAID thanks to this agreement could be seized
at boarders and destroyed for patent infringement,’ continued Ms.

In June, France committed at a U.N. meeting in New York that at least
15 million people will be on antiretroviral therapies (ART) by 2015.

‘Sarkozy must end his hypocrisy right now, or we can say goodbye to
the commitments France made at the U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS
this June,’ said former Act Up president Jérôme Martin. ‘Instead of
showing more pragmatism and put as most people as possible on ART
today, Sarkozy seeks policies for the HIV pandemic to become forever
out of control. Increasing French contribution to the global struggle
to reach 15 by 15 would be enough to reverse the pandemic and to
reverse the cost curve, while ensuring a place in history when AIDS is
over. But instead, Sarkozy and his gang are only focusing on the huge
benefits made by the pharmaceutical industry—letting millions of
people die.’

The French President stalls people with AIDS and try to play both ways

During a meeting with AIDS NGOs and in a letter sent to Act Up-Paris ,
Nicolas Sarkozy reasserted few months ago his support to generic
medicines and promised to organize an ‘Inter-Ministerial’ meeting on
the issue. But months later, we are still waiting, and none of the
ministries, from the Avenue de Ségur (Minister of Health) to the Quai
d’Orsay (MoFA) via Bercy (Ministry of Economics and Finances) has
taken any position to support generics.

Despite numerous calls and mails sent by activists, Christian Masset,
Director of Globalization and Development at the MoFA, Hervé Ladsous,
Chief of Cabinet of Alain Juppé, the Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Olivier Colom, the Diplomatic Councilor of Nicolas Sarkozy, Mathieu
Gressier, the Chief of Cabinet and Diplomatic Adviser of Xavier
Bertrand, the Minister of Social Affairs, are pleased with the current
situation and tacitly or actively support free trade agreements and
the anti-counterfeiting deals that threaten the lives of millions

Nicolas Sarkozy, Alain Juppé, Xavier Bertrand and François Baroin have
to come to their senses and end this deadly hypocritical policy.
lack of courage endangers many of the efforts led so far to stamp out
HIV pandemic.

Act Up-Paris urges:
– For an ‘inter-ministries meeting’ to be organized without delay, and
that France call to order the European Commission on its mandate ;

– That Nicolas Sarkozy, during the IAS conference on AIDS in Rome,
publicly reaffirms his support for generics and his opposition to all
provisions within trade agreements being negotiated by the E.C. that
will hinder the production and exportation of generics.

Act Up-Paris also urges all the countries excluded of the
Gilead/UNITAID agreement to issue without delay compulsory licences on
the drugs they need to control Aids including those produced by the
firm, as international law allow them to.