Import of generic drugs by poor countries receives nod from WTO

Import of generic drugs by poor countries receives nod from WTO

Still a long way to go to achieve global equity in accessibility and affordability: WHO

The Dollar Business Bureau

World Trade Organisation (WTO) has finalised a deal that allows poor countries, which do not have manufacturing infrastructure for the production of generic drugs, to import the same. The proposal has been awaiting approval since 2005. It finally got ratified by two-thirds majority on 23 January, 2017.

"The amendment to the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement gives the world's most vulnerable people access to drugs for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria," WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said.

Countries are permitted to produce generic versions of patented drugs for their domestic markets since the beginning of WTO regime in 1995. Only in 2003 were the poor countries given a temporary waiver to import these drugs. Ever since, it has been renewed every two years until now, when it was finally passed as a permanent exemption.

The world, as we know it today, is under attack from many social, economic and environmental urgencies that need to be addressed. WTO has taken a step in the right direction by showing that trade regulations are framed in context of wide-ranging humanitarian issues.

Azevedo affirmed this view by stating that WTO agreements must support development and better livelihoods around the world, complementing pressing global needs such as those of climate change and public health.

Although the move was welcomed by WHO chief Margaret Chan, she said there was still a lot to be done to make drugs affordable and accessible.

"We are a long way from reaching global equity in access to medicines, especially at a time when the costs of some new treatments are unsustainable even in the richest countries in the world," she said. 

The Dollar Business Bureau - Jan 24, 2017 12:00 IST