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Big pharma forces G8 to renege on AIDS promise

June 10, 2006.

Major pharmaceutical manufacturers pressured G8 leaders to go back on their promise to help developing nations fight HIV/AIDS and forced them to tighten drug patent regulations, thereby denying cheap medicines to people who need them the most, rights groups claimed on Friday.

The humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) stated that the G8 leaders' agreement to demand higher levels of intellectual property protection in developing economies will seriously limit access to affordable generic medicines developed by middle-income countries such as India and Brazil in all developing countries and fails to promote health innovation where it is most needed.

G8 announced these new protection mechanisms after Brazil and Thailand recently overcame patent barriers by issuing 'compulsory licenses' on several drugs in order to address high drug prices.

The TRIPS Agreement of the World Trade Organization allows for such measures, but pharmaceutical companies have retaliated by cutting off the supply of vital drugs to these countries.

MSF claimed that the G8 actions were illogical, citing a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) released in April 2006 which found that intellectual property protection does not stimulate development of medicines to treat diseases that primarily affect people in developing countries.

"If the G8 further increases patent protection, it will keep prices of new drugs across Africa, Asia and Latin America high and will do nothing to stimulate innovation where it is most needed," said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Director of MSF's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines. "We need AIDS medicines that are more affordable and we also desperately need new and better tests and medicines to treat tuberculosis and tropical diseases."

Interlectual Property Watch, an International IP-watchdog, reported that the organisation "Netzwerk Freies Wissen" this week sent letters to the five Outreach countries (O5) - China, India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil - asking them not accept the G8 invitation to participate in talks on better IP protection on Friday, the last day of the summit.

"Stricter levels of intellectual property protection will only worsen the health crisis in developing countries, where medicines are either unaffordable or simply not available because there is no market to incentivise their development," Rohit Malpani, Policy Advisor with Oxfam said.



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