World Health Assembly approves resolution supporting public health considerations in drug policy

The World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organisation, has approved a resolution stating that countries and pharmaceutical companies should consider public health factors when making policies on access to drugs, including antiretroviral medications.

The resolution, sponsored by Brazil, addresses concerns from the pharmaceutical industry by encouraging research and development of new drugs and by recognising intellectual property rights. The Brazilian delegates engaged in “difficult negotiations” with US delegates, who had submitted a different draft resolution focusing on the defence of patents and intellectual property law. Brazil threatened to submit its own proposal for a vote and rejected attempts to combine the resolutions. The draft resolution was co-sponsored by the African bloc, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Thailand and Indonesia and was supported by the European nations. The resolution calls on countries to reach a consensus on generic drugs before the September ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation.

Talks stalled last year

WTO talks in Geneva over generic drug access have been stalled since members missed a 31 December 2002 deadline to reach an agreement. In February, US negotiators refused to sign a deal under the Doha declaration to allow developing nations to override patent protections to produce generic versions of drugs to combat public health epidemics unless wording was included to specify which diseases constituted a public health epidemic. The United States said that without such a list, developing nations could use patent overrides to produce generic versions of any patented drug — such as Viagra — that is not used to fight public health epidemics. Brazil, which is considered to be a pioneer in AIDS policy, was asked to assist WHO in the development of the agency’s five-year antiretroviral treatment strategy.


World Health Organisation

World Trade Organisation

Doha Declaration

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