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[e-drug] Lamy told: stand up to drug companies

E-drug: Lamy told: stand up to drug companies
---------------------------------------------
>From the European Voice.
Volume 7 Number 10
8 March 2001

Glenys tells Lamy: stand up to drug companies
By Simon Taylor
TRADE Commissioner Pascal Lamy is under pressure to urge 
multinational drugs companies to stop fighting efforts to cut the 
price of life-saving medicines for some of the world's poorest people.
UK Socialist MEP Glenys Kinnock wants Lamy to back German development 
minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, who this week called for 39 
pharmaceutical firms to abandon their legal challenge to a South 
African law designed to lower the price of patent-protected HIV and 
AIDS medicines.

The firms include the five leading companies in the field: 
GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, and Boehringer 
Ingelheim.
"Lamy and everyone else have to ask themselves what the World Trade 
Organisation is there for - to represent its members or the profits 
of pharmaceutical companies," said Kinnock, speaking from outside the 
court in Pretoria where the case was being heard.
Kinnock, a leading member of the European Parliament's development 
committee, said she would be lobbying other member states to support 
the German minister. "There's nothing which would make Lamy's life 
easier than if other member states agreed," she said.
The MEP warned Lamy that he would find it difficult to win support 
from major developing countries for a new round of WTO talks unless 
he listened to their concerns over access to life-saving medicines. 
"The EU and US will have to understand that the three big developing 
countries - South Africa, Brazil and India - will be holding the new 
round hostage over their right to buy generic drugs," she said.

This week, a South African judge adjourned the case brought against 
the government by some world's biggest drugs companies until 18 April 
to give the firms time to prepare arguments for their legal challenge 
under WTO rules.

The drugs firms argue that the South African law breaks commitments 
made by Pretoria under WTO rules designed to protect intellectual 
property, known as Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property 
Rights, or TRIPS for short.

A local AIDS action group and two northern European campaign groups, 
Oxfam and MÈdËcins sans FrontiËres, led protests against the 
companies in South Africa.

But Lamy has so far resisted appeals from campaign groups to condemn 
the court action. Speaking at a trade and poverty conference in 
Brussels this week, Lamy said it was not Commission policy to comment 
directly on legal cases but stated that he believed that the existing 
TRIPS agreement balances the interests of industry with the medical 
needs of developing countries. "

We would not have medicines if it was not for intellectual property 
rights unless you only want to rely on public funding," he said. "We 
need IP but there is an exception to TRIPS on the grounds of national 
emergencies." Lamy added that the Commission has been able to 
influence industry to consider differential pricing, which was "one 
of the solutions to the problems" faced by developing countries.
Oxfam policy director Justin Forsyth claimed this week that more than 
400,000 South Africans had died of AIDS and related diseases since 
the drugs companies launched their legal case.

A spokesman for the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries 
and Associations (EFPIA) denied that the pharmaceutical industry was 
blocking efforts to provide lower cost drugs to sick people in 
developing countries. "The court case is not geared to hinder access 
to essential medicines," said EPFIA public-relations manager 
Christophe de Callatay. "It's a matter of principle. It's about 
protecting IP from arbitrary seizure. It's about giving the health 
minister the right to override patent rights." He pointed out that 
the industry was making its own efforts to lower the cost of drugs in 
developing countries, saying that companies had offered to bring down 
the price of some medicines to the level of generic drugs. she would 
be lobbying other member states to support the German minister. 
"There's nothing which would make Lamy's life easier than if other 
member states agreed," she said.

The MEP warned Lamy that he would find it difficult to win support 
from developing countries for a new round of WTO talks unless he 
listened to their concerns. "The EU and US will have to understand 
that the three big developing countries - South Africa, Brazil and 
India - will be holding the new round hostage over their right to buy 
generic drugs," she said.
This week, a South African judge adjourned the case against the 
government until 18 April to give the drugs firms time to prepare 
arguments.

The drug companies argue that the South African law breaks 
commitments designed to protect their patents, known as Trade Related 
Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS for short.
Campaign groups have protested strongly against the firms in South 
Africa, but Lamy has resisted appeals to condemn the court action.
Speaking at a trade and poverty conference in Brussels this week, he 
said it was not Commission policy to comment on legal cases but 
stated that he believed that the existing TRIPS agreement balances 
the interests of industry with the medical needs of developing 
countries.
"We would not have medicines if it was not for intellectual property 
rights unless you only want to rely on public funding...and there is 
an exception to TRIPS on the grounds of national emergencies." Lamy 
said the Commission has encouraged industry to consider differential 
pricing, which was "one of the solutions to the problems" faced by 
developing countries.

A spokesman for the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries 
and Associations (EFPIA) denied that the industry was blocking 
efforts to provide lower cost drugs to developing countries. "The 
court case is not geared to hinder access to essential medicines," 
said its public relations manager Christophe de Callatay. "It's about 
protecting IP from arbitrary seizure."

Meanwhile, US drugs giant Merck - one of the firms involved in the 
court action - said yesterday it would sell two anti-AIDS medicines 
at no profit in developing countries. The move is also being seen as 
a means to protect its market from manufacturers of cheaper generic 
treatments.

Reprinted under the fair use doctrine
of international copyright law:
http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html
===============================================
Ellen 't Hoen, LL.M.
MSF- Access to Essential Medicines Campaign
8, rue Saint-Sabin, 75544 Paris Cedex 11
tel: + 33 (0) 1 40212836
fax: + 33 (0) 1 48066868
e-mail: ellen.t.hoen@paris.msf.org
Web-site: www.accessmed-msf.org
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