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Application of the World Trade Organisation
drugs agreement: still nothing

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) stated that it had introduced the necessary flexibility to patent laws to give poor countries access to recent drugs. Three years later, nobody has yet made use of this "flexibility".

Most AIDS sufferers living in poor countries taking antiretroviral drugs now benefit from generic drugs manufactured in India. But since 2005 India has been forced to respect drug patents, like all the member countries of the WTO; and the government must now grant "compulsory licences" for the patented drugs it wants to copy. Countries wishing to import these drugs must also do so under compulsory licence and comply with a control system set up through a WTO agreement on 31 August 2003. With this agreement, the WTO and the rich countries announced they had put an end to the controversy around patents and access to essential recent drugs for all by introducing the necessary flexibility.

Non-governmental organisations however considered the new system too complicated and dissuasive. Three years on, not one country has used this system. And the country that has made the most progress down this route, Canada, now recognises how cumbersome it is.

Meanwhile, more and more patients from poor countries need the most recent antiretroviral drugs, whose cost is exorbitant: the international community is up against the wall.

"Accord de l'OMC sur les médicaments : une fausse solution (suite)" Rev Prescrire 2006 ; 26 (275) : 619-620.