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‘Make life-saving drugs cheaper’

Global activists call for safe and effective medicines for HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases should be affordable and accessible to all those who need them, reports Sanchita Sharma.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 22, 2008 02:28 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times
Global activists

Safe and effective medicines for HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases should be affordable and accessible to all those who need them, said activists from 15 countries who met in New Delhi to discuss the issues surrounding intellectual property rights.

Civil society groups from South Africa, Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Kenya and other countries shared their experiences to ensure the enforcement of intellectual property rights do not come at the cost of protecting public health.

“The obstacles posed by global patent protection under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement poses a grave threat to public health and needs a global response. Countries can learn from each other and help make medicines cheaper and easily available in the developing world,” said Anand Grover, the Project Director of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit.

The Thai government, for one, issued compulsory licenses on several essential medicines, which has dramatically lowered the prices.

“The Thai government’s decision to issue compulsory licenses on essential drugs for HIV, heart diseases and cancer has given new hope to thousands of Thai citizens who could not otherwise have access to these drugs,” said Thailand’s Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul.

Compulsory licenses are measures permitted under WTO rules that allow countries to override existing patents to allow for cheaper generic versions to be made.

As the world’s largest supplier of generic drugs to the developing world, said activists, India should lead global efforts to make life-saving drugs cheaper at the Intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property to be held in Geneva next month.