EU takes initiative on access to drugs for developing countries

The Commission calls on changes to the WTO patent rules, to ensure that also the poorest countries can have access to generic drugs.

The EU is making a proposal to the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to enable poor countries without capacity of producing drugs, to get access to essential medicines. The EU is proposing a new paragraph in the TRIPS agreement, so that a foreign supplier can provide medicines on the basis of a compulsory licence issued to a developing country in order to address serious public health needs.

At the same time, the US is also planning to present a similar proposal. The content is mainly the same as the EU proposal, but the legal go-about has to be clarified.


The NGOMedecins Sans Frontiers(MSF) is pleased to see the Commission taking action on the issue of access to drugs. However, it is critical of the Commission asking for amendments in article 31 of the TRIPS agreement. MSF questions the Commission's lack of transparency, since it offers no explanation to why it proposes changes of art. 31, instead of art. 30f, which would be more favourable for developing countries and offers an easier administrative procedure.


At the WTO negotiations in Doha in November 2001, an agreement was reached to ease patent rules to allow developing countries to produce patented drugs under a procedure called "compulsory licensing". This way countries struck by health crises such as HIV, are given access to affordable medicines. However, this did not solve the problem with developing countries without means on their own to produce medicines (see also EURACTIV13 November 2001and7 March 2002).


The TRIPS Council is committed to solve the issue of patents and developing countries before the end of 2002.


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