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[e-drug] Request for compulsory license in Cameroon

E-DRUG: Request for compulsory license in Cameroon


Subject:  Essential Inventions files request for compulsory licenses to
AIDS drugs in Cameroon.  Seeks first TRIPS compliant compulsory
licenses to AIDS drugs under revised Bangui Agreement.

Date:   January 19, 2005

FMI:    Terry Gardiner, terry.gardiner@essentialinventions.org
(from 19 to 21 January +41.76.413.6584,
after 21 January  +1.206.310.6707 )
Joy Spencer, +1.202.387.8030, joy.spencer@cptech.org
James Love, +1.202.387.8030, james.love@cptech.org
Jean Marie TALOM, Mobile: +237.995.96.13, redscm@yahoo.fr

<-------Release in English--------------->

January 19, 2005.  Washington, DC.  Essential Inventions, Inc., a
non-profit pharmaceutical company, announced today that it has
petitioned the Cameroon government for issuance of compulsory licenses
for ARV medicines.  Cameroon is a member of the World Trade Organization
(WTO), and is obligated under the WTO TRIPS Agreement on Intellectual
Property to grant patents on pharmaceutical products.

If Cameroon approves the essential inventions request, it would be the
first West African country to issue TRIPS compliant compulsory licenses
for patents on AIDS drugs, and set an important precedent for the region.

Essential Inventions filed the compulsory license request with the
Honorable Urbain Olanguena Awono, the Minister of Public Health of the
Republic of Cameroon.  The petition calls for the issuance of
nonexclusive open non-voluntary licenses for all patents relevant
importation, manufacture and sale of generic versions of nevirapine,
lamivudine, and the fixed dose combination of lamivudine and zidovudine,
medicines used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.  If approved, licenses
would be available to any organization or business seeking to supply
these AIDS medicines to patients in Cameroon.

Essential Inventions filed its request under the rules of the Bangui
Agreement, which is the law governing industrial property rights in
each of the 16 member states of the African Intellectual Property
Organisation (OAPI).   The OAPI is headquartered in Yaounde, Cameroon.
The sixteen members of OAPI include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon,
Central Africa, Congo, Ctte dIvoire, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau,
Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad, and Togo,
with a population of more than 100 million inhabitants.

The Bangui Agreement was amended in 1999 to comply with the WTO TRIPS
agreement.  The revised Bangui Agreement has been criticized by public
health groups for its limited use of TRIPS flexibilities for compulsory

Cameroon has a population of 15.5 million persons.  In 2002, the per
capita income for Cameroon was $584 per year, according to the World
Bank.  Approximately 9,000 persons are currently receiving Highly Active
Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) treatment for AIDS in Cameroon --
approximately 1 percent of the 920 thousand persons estimated to be
living with HIV.  Public health groups are seeking a ten-fold increase
in access to HAART treatment.

The Essential Inventions petition, signed by Essential Inventions CEO
Terry Gardiner notes that virtually all major donors for AIDS treatment
have indicated they will support the purchase of generic medicines, so
long as sales are consistent with global intellectual property rules,
including rules for granting compulsory licenses for patents.  Gardiner
notes that the Essential Inventions petition seeks to establish
transparent and sustainable policies that guarantee the poor have access
to in-expensive generic medicines.  By acting upon the request to issue
open compulsory licenses on medicines for AIDS, the government will
ensure that it can take advantage of the widest number of suppliers of
medicine, and seek financing from the widest group of donors for the
treatment of AIDS.  A failure to grant open compulsory licenses will
limit the number of suppliers, or present risks of limiting donor
support for treatment. Gardiner said.

In commenting on the request, James Love, the Director of the Consumer
Project on Technology (CPTech) and the Chairman of Essential Inventions,
said: This is about Cameroon providing the leadership that is needed in
West Africa, and demonstrating that West African countries are
implementing the flexibilities in the TRIPS that protect the poor.  We
believe this is an important step toward a longer run framework for
access to essential medicines.  It will lower the risks that donors will
shun low cost generics. Every major donor has indicated it will support
the purchases of generic AIDS medicines, if countries abide by trade
agreements.  Several countries are buying small quantities of generic
medicines, without having issued compulsory licenses.  As global
agencies seek to scale up treatment efforts, it is time to address the
need for transparent, predictable, and legal instruments to address
patent issues.  The most important flexibility in the TRIPS and Bangui
agreements concerning access to medicines are the provisions for
compulsory licensing of patents.   Recently two Asian and four southern
African countries have issued compulsory licenses on AIDS medicines.  To
our knowledge, no West African country has issued compulsory licenses
under the terms of the OAPI 1999 Bangui Agreement on Intellectual
Property.  This petition is an opportunity for the Cameroon government
and the OAPI to demonstrate the Bangui Agreement can be implemented in a
way that protects the poor and addresses donor concerns."

Robert Weissman, the Legal Counsel for Essential Inventions, said: "The
ranks of countries issuing compulsory licenses -- from Zambia to
Indonesia, from Mozambique to Malaysia -- is growing rapidly. They are
showing that it is politically, legally and economically feasible and
straightforward to exercise the most important TRIPS flexibility,
compulsory licensing. In joining this growing legion of countries to
issue compulsory licenses, Cameroon will take an important step in
addressing its pressing HIV/AIDS public health problem."

The Cameroon contact for Essential Inventions is Jean Marie TALOM.  Mr.
TALOM, a lawyer, lives in Yaounde, where works with REDS, a group that
defends the human rights of persons living with AIDS.  Mr. TALOM said:
The Cameroonian government has reduced the price of some AIDS
medications and diagnostics, by purchasing generic drugs with funding
from the Global Fund.   However, I would like to emphasize is that the
reduction in price affects only some first-line treatments for AIDS,
while prices remain very expensive for other treatments or illnesses.
In addition, in order to receive financing from certain donors, Cameroon
must be in compliance with international rules on intellectual property.
   This is why the government must issue this non-voluntary license to
provide access to medicines.

Yoke Ling, an intellectual property expert from the Third World Network,
agreed that Cameroon should approve the request to issue compulsory
licenses.  She said: "The petition for non-voluntary licenses presents
Cameroon with an exceptional opportunity to take the lead in the West
Africa sub-region in safeguarding the public health interests of
Africans.  Allowing the petition will be a signal to all African states
that governments have the policy space under TRIPS and the Doha
Declaration and should exploit it to take appropriate measures to
address the health concerns of their people. The issuing of
non-voluntary licenses is regularly done in developed countries for
various reasons including for public health reasons, thus Cameroon must
show no hesitance in approving the petition."

Michael Bailey of Oxfam welcomed the initiative, commenting that
increasing use of compulsory licences was the inevitable consequence of
the WTO TRIPS agreement.  "The best way to bring down the price of
medicines in the developing world is to have generic competition, full
stop, and that means reforming TRIPS. In the meantime, we have no choice
but to use these safeguards."

                                # 30 #

The text of the EII petition is on the web in English and French here:

REDS  is short for Reseau sur l'Ethique, le droit, et le VIH/SIDA.  Reds
is a Cameroonian organization of activists working to promote human
rights in the context of AIDS.  Reds works to help the government to
implement policies that facilitate the prevention and treatment of
HIV/AIDS.  They also give counsel to those living with HIV/AIDS whose
rights have been violated, as well as with researchers to promote these

James Love, Director, CPTech, http://www.cptech.org

Consumer Project on Technology in Washington, DC
PO Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036, USA
Tel.:  1.202.387.8030, fax:

Consumer Project on Technology in Geneva
1 Route des  Morillons, CP 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 791 6727

Mobile +1.202.361.3040

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