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AIDS Drug Research Could End,
Drug Companies Warn

Compiled by GayToday

Geneva, Switzerland-The international pharmaceutical industry is warning that AIDS research and the development of new AIDS drugs could stop if patents are allowed to be loosened so that poor countries might be allowed to get medicines at lower costs.

Delegates to the World Trade Organization were told that the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) patents must not be amended on behalf of the poor. TRIPS, condemned by those advocating access to AIDS drugs for the disadvantaged, sets the conditions under which patents on medicines can be set aside. As a rule, patents last for at least 20 years.

Dr. Rolf Krebs, chair of Boehringer Ingelheim and president of the Independent Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations (IFPMA) insisted that "More flexibility in TRIPS would be disastrous for continuing investment in research and development on AIDS." Dr. Krebs believes that governments might declare non-existent national health emergencies if patent laws established in 1994 were to be altered.

Although no final decision was reached in Geneva last week, developing countries are expected to demand changes in TRIPS in November when there will be a WTO ministerial meeting in Qatar.

The pharmaceutical moguls denounced those who'd made no contribution to drug development but would be the beneficiaries of a forced surrendering of patents.

Investors, they claimed, would be threatened by such changes and would most likely insist that pharmaceutical firms turn their focus on other diseases, such as cancer. "So it is important to maintain a stable basis for this industry to invest," said the AIDS drug lords.

The development of new anti-AIDS compounds has already declined during the past 3 years. That decline, say the industry's brass, must be blamed on the noisy campaigns by AIDS activists against their companies' prices. The WTO's dispute settlement body features trading partners who believe that patents belonging to companies under their jurisdiction are being unjustifiably violated.

Developing nations complain the TRIPS rules make it impossible for them to buy life-saving drugs, thus condemning millions of their citizens to torturous deaths.

Related Articles from the GayToday Archive:
AIDS Treatment Access in Developing Countries

The Politics of Life and Death: Global Responses to HIV and AIDS

Africa and the Devastation of the Human Species

Related Sites:
National Institute of Health: AIDS Research
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Oxfam, an organization working toward a more equitable sharing of essentials for the poor, issued a statement:

"The essential flaw of TRIPS is to oblige all countries, rich and poor, to grant at least 20 years' patent protection for new medicines, thereby delaying production of inexpensive generic substitutes upon which developing-country health services and poor people depend."

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