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    Peer Reviewed

    Acess to AIDS medicines stumbles on trade rules.

    World Health Organization [WHO]

    Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 2006 May; 84(5):337-424.

    Developing countries are failing to make full use of flexibilities built into the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to overcome patent barriers and, in turn, allow them to acquire the medicines they need for high priority diseases, in particular, HIV/AIDS. First-line antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for HIV/AIDS have become more affordable and available in recent years, but for patients facing drug resistance and side-effects, second-line ARV drugs and other newer formulations are likely to remain prohibitively expensive and inaccessible in many countries. The problem is that many of these countries are not using all the tools at their disposal to overcome these barriers. Medicines protected by patents tend to be expensive, as pharmaceutical companies try to recoup their research and development (R&D) costs. When there is generic competition prices can be driven down dramatically. The TRIPS Agreement came into effect on 1 January 1995 setting out minimum standards for the protection of intellectual property, including patents on pharmaceuticals. Under that agreement, since 2005 new drugs may be subject to at least 20 years of patent protection in all, apart from in the least-developed countries and a few non-WTO Members, such as Somalia. Successful AIDS programmes, such as those in Brazil and Thailand, have only been possible because key pharmaceuticals were not patent protected and could be produced locally at much lower cost. For example, when the Brazilian Government began producing generic AIDS drugs in 2000, prices dropped. AIDS triple-combination therapy, which costs US$ 10 000 per patient per year in industrialized countries, can now be obtained from Indian generic drugs company, Cipla, for less than US$ 200 per year. This puts ARV treatment within reach of many more people. (excerpt)
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