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EU’s intellectual property agenda could impair access to medicines in the Andean region

Health Action International | 6 March 2009

Press release

EU’s Intellectual Property agenda could impair access to medicines in the Andean region

6 May 2009 — In Monday’s press conference at the Residence Palace in
Brussels, civil society organisations presented impact studies on the
European trade agreements with Andean countries to MEP Bart Staes
(Greens) and a representative of the European left party GUE/NGL,
Paul-Emile Dupret. The groups presented studies revealing the damaging
implications of the trade agreements in the areas of access to medicines
and intellectual property (IP); human rights in Colombia; indigenous
rights in agriculture and; the investment and services sectors.

The trade agreements currently being negotiated between the EU and Peru,
Colombia and Ecuador include IP provisions that would seriously damage
access to essential medicines in the Andean region. The EU-CAN Alliance
and RED-CAN EU are looking to MEPs and policymakers in Europe to join
the campaign to remove dangerous IP provisions that threaten the public
health of citizens and the health budgets of the governments of the
three negotiating countries.

New impact studies published this week reveal the potentially
devastating consequences of the EU’s IP agenda for access to medicines
in Peru and Colombia. The study in Colombia found that 5 million people
could lose access to medicines by 2030 unless there is an increase of
280 million USD in health spending. In Peru, the five year extension of
patent protection would lead to an increase in spending of 250 million
USD by 2030 or impair access to medicines for 6.2 million people in
Peru. Together, the EU’s proposals on patent protection and data
exclusivity would increase the prices of medicines by up to 34%.

Though there are no figures for Ecuador, there is likely to be an even
bigger impact because, unlike Peru and Colombia who have already signed
free trade agreements with the United States, Ecuador still enjoys the
relatively more flexible standards of the TRIPS agreement. [1]

In this week’s round of negotiations in Brussels, the EU-CAN Alliance, a
civil society network of European and Andean civil society
organisations, along with the RED CAN-EU, a European network of NGOs
working specifically on these trade agreements, are hosting a series of
events [2] to highlight the damaging provisions that the EU is pushing for
in these agreements.

On hearing that the EU’s position on IP is more uncompromising than the
US, MEP Bart Staes commented, "I’m shocked to hear that the EU is more
aggressive in its approach to intellectual property in trade agreements than the United
States". Paul Emile Dupret added, "Europe should not be pushing Andean
countries to sign provisions that contradict their national constitutions," as in the case
of Ecuador and Bolivia (who left the negotiations in end of 2008).

In light of the current financial and flu epidemic crises, it is
concerning that the EU is still promoting the interests of multinational
pharmaceutical companies to the detriment of public health and
development in the Andean region.


[1The USA demanded IP standards that went beyond TRIPS, so the scenario
is already more problematic. Ecuador does not have any data exclusivity
provisions for example, while Peru and Colombia grant 5 years of extra
protection through this mechanism. The EU is asking up to 11 years of
data exclusivity of the Andean countries.

[2On Thursday 7 May 2009 there will be a day of panels on the trade
agreement in De Markten, Oude Graanmarkt 1000. Panel on Intellectual
Property; Access to Medicines and Biodiversity at 11.15 - 12.15