As the International AIDS Society Conference begins in Washington, DC, the world is closer than ever to being able to end the HIV epidemic. One of the most valuable tools at hand to achieve this is widespread availability of appropriate, affordable HIV medicines.
Quality, low-cost generic medicines have played a key role in expanding access to HIV drugs around the world — now accounting for 98 percent of PEPFAR purchases and a significant percentage of Global Fund procurements, as acknowledged by USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk in his recent blog post on trade and access to medicines. Clearly, any initiative aimed at increasing access to medicines to save lives around the world must take special care in preserving the ability of generic companies to make lower cost medicines, especially of newer drugs now recommended by the World Health Organization.
Ambassador Kirk also rightly highlights the critical support provided by the U.S. NIH in being the first patent holder to share its intellectual property with the Medicines Patent Pool. The Pool values highly the political support it has received from the US and other governments, as such support is critical to the Pool’s success.
However, the Pool reiterates the serious concerns it voiced in September 2011 about intellectual property provisions that negatively impact on access to medicines in developing countries such as those reportedly being proposed in the TPP negotiations. These include provisions requiring data exclusivity, linking patent status with medicines regulation, patenting of new uses and new forms of known substances, and the prohibition of pre-grant oppositions, all of which go well beyond the minimum requirements of the TRIPS agreement.
As the USTR reflects on the extensive feedback it has received thus far on the TPP negotiations, the Pool hopes that it will take into account the concerns voiced by the Pool and many other public health organisations, and avoids including such provisions in the TPP and any other free trade agreements.