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November 7, 2010

EU deal threatens HIV drug supplies

Al Jazeera English: "The charity Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF) says that hidden clauses in the free trade agreeement (FTA) currently being negotiated between Europe and India will prevent the manufacture and distribution of crucial generic medicines produced in the country.

"There are dirty legal tricks being used," says Dr. Tido von Schoenangerer, who runs the MSF campaign for essential medicines. "Any person living with HIV in the developing world is facing a future scenario in which the medicines they need will be under threat."

"Meanwhile the World Health Organisation, the UN's public health body, has echoed MSF's concerns, saying that if the trade deal does indeed include clauses governing the production of cheap generic medicines, the ramifications for the public health could be serious.

"The issue hinges on a so-called 'data exclusivity' provision in the free trade agreement, which campaigners say would effectively copyright information gathered in the clinical trials that prove the effectiveness and safety of medicines.

"At present, generic manufacturers rely on the results of the original clinical trials carried out by the drug developer to get their cheap version registered. If this information were to become exclusive, Indian companies would be left without the data they need to register their drugs.

"It means companies will have to repeat the trials, which not only would be very costly, but raises ethical issues because it is basically doing research to find out something that is already known," says von Schoenangerer. ...

"The department of essential medicines of WHO has never been given a copy of the draft of the free trade agreement..."