FTA: The new Andean disease

Real World Radio | 23/02/09

FTA: The New Andean Disease

- Audio: 4:00 minutes (2.77 MB MP3)

The Agreements Between Andean Countries and the EU Deepen Pharmaceutical Dependence

The Free Trade Agreement or the Association Agreement the European Union is promoting with two of the four countries member of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) risks the continuity of this bloc, but it also represents a threat to access to medications and health of the Andean peoples.

This is what the group of organizations of Europe and Andean countries` civil society, joined in the CAN-EU Alliance stated publically. The organizations establish a difference between CAN as an economic project and its process of integration of Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. Peru and Colombia are currently negotiating with the EU to obtain a free trade agreement, in spite of the opposition carried out by Bolivia and Ecuador which decided to step aside in the negotiations.

The organizations highlight that one of the crucial issues in the negotiations has been precisely the chapter on intellectual property. “Years ago the acceptance of protection was forced, after the Andean Tribunal of Justice decided that such protection was against the laws in force. This was one of the reasons why Venezuela left CAN. The previous year, to comply with Peru commitments with the US, there were confusing modifications to the Andean norms on intellectual property, which caused great differences, especially with Bolivia and Ecuador”, the statement reads.

HAI Global (Health Action International), HAI Europe, Concord (which gathers 1000 European NGOs), EPHA (Action for Global Health), Doctors Without Borders, the Latin American Episcopal Council, the Episcopal Confernece from Colombia, Center of Research and Universal Education, the Community of Ministers of Sick People, AIS LAC (International Access for Latin American and the Caribbean Health), AIS Bolivia, AIS Colombia, AIS Ecuador, AIS Peru, the Peruvian Network for a Globalization with Equality, Mision Salud Foundation and Ifarma Foundation, are among the organizations and networks which signed the statement.

The threat of the European agenda in terms of access to medicines has not been introduced yet in the negotiations with CAN, although it was present in other agreements like CARIFORUM, and makes reference to patents for utility models. These patents, which last 10 years, have been provided only to mechanical innovations on products, and are banned for procedures and things excluded from invention patent protection.

The text of the agreement EU-CARIFORUM extends the application of these patents to any product or process of any technological sphere, with the condition that this is new, that implies a certain degree of non-obviousness and that can be applied industrially. Such proposal, according to the organizations, could include patents for second uses, to trivial developments, or even to combine two or more medicines.

The EU aims at extending data protection of medicines up to eleven years, during which there will not exist generic medicines. Today data protection with exclusiveness only exists in Peru and Colombia, but is limited to five years for medicines. “Bear in mind that generic medicines in the region are worth four times less than the international-brand products on average, and in some cases they cost even 35 times less”, the statement explains.

In addition, they make reference to a resolution adopted in May 2008 by the World Health Assembly (Global Strategy and Action Plan on Innovation, Public Health and Intellectual Property), according to which the incentive model for the sanitary innovation in force, based on patents and the perspective of high prices of monopoly, is not benefitial for developing countries, where 80% of the world population lives. “It’s not benefitial because it does not translate to medicines for “unattended” diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and because the new medicines for diseases that also affect developing countries are of high prices, unaffordable for sick people and health systems”.

The Andean and European organizations conclude expressing their rejection “to a negotiation of health in exchange of trade benefits, as health was not a fundamental right but a tradable good”.

source: RMR