Posted by: mulrickillion | December 21, 2011

WTO | 2011 News items – 10-year-old WTO declaration has reinforced health policy choices, Lamy tells symposium

WTO: 2011 NEWS ITEMS

23 November 2011

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: TRIPS AND PUBLIC HEALTH

10-year-old WTO declaration has reinforced health policy choices, Lamy tells symposium

A decade-old WTO declaration has allowed the WTO and its partners to collaborate on helping governments target medical treatment for their poorer populations and understand their room for manoeuvre under intellectual property agreements, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said on 23 November 2011.

The view was shared by participants from a range of diverse organizations in the symposium on Global Health Diplomacy to mark the declaration’s 10th anniversary, organized by the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, and held at the WTO.

Mr Lamy was speaking in a session chaired by former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, who is also the former chairperson of the WHO Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health. Also on the podium were WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry.

The November 2001 Doha ministerial Declaration on TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) and Public Health was a political turning point in the way public health is governed globally, Mr Lamy said.

Before the declaration was issued, intellectual property protection (patent protection for drugs and medical products, in particular) and the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement were often considered simply to be an obstacle to public health, Mr Lamy recalled.

Now, the perception has changed: the declaration affirmed that the two are not contradictory. Mr Lamy quoted from it: “We agree that the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent members from taking measures to protect public health.”

An important result has been a shift in focus from the “compatibility” of trade, intellectual property and health to the more dynamic and constructive “coherence” between them, he said. It has allowed a partnership to develop between the World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and WTO.

Mr Lamy added that the main responsibility for ensuring coherence is within national governments, including how intellectual property is handled in bilateral or regional free trade agreements. If governments accept tougher standards for intellectual property protection than required in the TRIPS Agreement (known as “TRIPS-plus”), then governments are accountable to their critics not to the WTO, he said.

One area of cooperation between the three organizations has been the examination of the relationships between incentives for innovation, access to medicines and trade. WTO Intellectual Property Division Director Antony Taubman told the meeting that a forthcoming product will be a study that draws on a range of facts and figures to create a guide for policy-makers to choose among the complex options available to them to provide better health services to their poorer populations through improved access to the medical technologies and medicines that are needed.

Before and after

The 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health was genuine a turning point, changing the reality of the situation, Mr Lamy said.

Changing the rules. The declaration allowed WTO member governments to tackle a problem that existed in the TRIPS Agreement at that time:  they altered the agreement’s provision to remove an obstacle that prevented countries from using compulsory licences to manufacture generic medicines exclusively for export to countries unable to make them themselves — creating the “Paragraph 6” system. . . .

WTO | 2011 News items – 10-year-old WTO declaration has reinforced health policy choices, Lamy tells symposium

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