Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Obama opposition to TRIPS exemption for Haiti to increase the price of life-saving medicine

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is seeking to curb efforts to exempt the world's poorest countries from expansive trade rules that would substantially increase the price of life-saving medicine and other products.

The regulations would extend intellectual property rules currently used in developed countries to a few dozen nations currently classified by the United Nations as "Least Developed Countries" (LDCs), including Haiti, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Somalia, Chad and several other nations in sub-Saharan Africa. Because many of the nations classified as least developed exhibit very high rates of HIV and AIDS, the proposed rules have raised concerns among human rights advocates who note that higher drug prices will result in lower treatment levels.

Worldwide, less than 50 percent of HIV-positive adults currently receive treatment, while less than 25 percent of HIV-positive children do, according to the U.N. Global Commission on HIV and the Law. Nearly one-third of all HIV positive people live in LDCs, according to UNAIDS.

"There are many reasons for this [HIV] treatment gap. But a major one is the result of recent bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that have undoubtedly increased the power of pharmaceutical patent holders to control the prices of drugs on global markets. Governments, especially in low- and middle-income countries, cannot afford them," wrote the U.N. Global Commission in July 2012.

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