July 11th 2000 - Durban South Africa International AIDS Conference
___ UNAIDS Confesses that Generic
Access is Key to Making AIDS Treatment Available
ACT UP Demands: Break the Patents, Treatment for All
For almost two years, ACT UP, MSF, TAC , and activists from the all world and even UN institutions have demanded that drug companies lower the prices of ARV and adapt prices to the financial capacities of poor countries. Despite their grandstanding announcements, cynical marketing and cosmetic pity, nothing concrete has happened. Providing AIDS drugs under current prices can eat up all funds and still only provide access for a few.
There is no other solution except the production of generics by local industries and the importation of those drugs in countries without production capacities. The WTO TRIPs agreements allow for this solution. The voluntary or compulsory license system allows a country suffering a health crisis to permit generic production or importation. This morning, at the UNAIDS Satellite Meeting, Peter Piot, General Secretary of UNAIDS announced that the most important factor in increasing drug access is competition between generic and patented drugs. But we will not content ourselves with UNAIDS promises. What Peter Piot spoke about last week in private must be implemented : an international bid to buy drugs in bulk at the lowest price for all countries in need.
But the allowances in TRIPs that should guarantee the protection of production or import rights for poor countries are inefficient. No country so far has received any voluntary license from any drug company. Local generic industries are constantly threatened by multinational pharmaceutical companies, and nations seeking to utilize their rights under TRIPs have still been overtly or covertly harassed by the Unites States and EU. The patent system, fiercely guarded by drug companies who donate millions of dollars to US politicians, only aims at protecting industry prerogatives, not public health.
When the bounds of the law are murderous, they must not be respected. The patent protection of pharmaceuticals must absolutely be questioned. If the patents' function is only to restrict the access to the new health technologies to wealthy patients, the patents are weapons of death; the patent holders are criminal.
We demand a radical challenge to the law that defines intellectual property in health industry. This is the only way to permit real competition between generic products and patented brands. In any country where intellectual property protection stands in the way of public health, intellectual property protection of medication and health technologies must be suspended.
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