Amendment to WTO TRIPS agreement makes access to affordable medicines even more bleak: MSF expresses concern that patients the world-over will have to pay the price

Medecins sans Frontiers today expressed alarm at the decision of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to amend the TRIPS Agreement based on a mechanism that has failed to prove it can increase access to medicines. The so-called ¬ĎAugust 30th decision¬í, which was designed in 2003 to allow production and export of generic medicines, has long been viewed by MSF and public health groups as overly cumbersome and inefficient.

Yet to date there is no experience using the mechanism – not one patient has benefited from its use – despite the fact that newer medicines, such as second-line AIDS drugs, are priced out of reach of poor patients. MSF is already being confronted with steep price increases in our projects today – we pay five to 30 times more for second-line AIDS medicines to treat patients that need newer drugs.

Delaying the amendment would have been a far better option, as it would have ensured the possibility of testing and improving the mechanism in practice. This decision shows that the WTO is ignoring the day-to-day reality of drug production and procurement. The amendment has made permanent a burdensome drug-by-drug, country-by-country decision-making process, which does not take into account the fact that economies of scale are needed to attract interest from manufacturers of medicines.

Without the pull of a viable market for generic pharmaceutical products, manufacturers are not likely to want to take part in the production-for-export system on a large scale. And without competition among several manufacturers, MSF fears it will be extremely difficult to ensure that prices of newer medicines will fall the way first-generation AIDS medicines did.

Source: MSF 6 December 2005

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