Monday

27th May 2019

Prodi calls on US to shift position on cheap drugs

  • Commission President ROMANO PRODI will make the case for “directing the market in a more socially responsible direction”. (Photo: European Commission)

Speaking in Brussels today, the President of the Commission, Romano Prodi, will ask the United States for a "positive signal" to help break the deadlock in negotiations designed to improve developing countries’ access to cheap medicines.

The President will tell a gathering of business leaders, NGOs and politicians that the EU is "waiting for a positive signal" from Washington to end the stalemate in key WTO negotiations.

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According to Mr Prodi’s speech, he is expected to make the case for "directing the market in a more socially responsible direction", highlighting a problem which is said to affect two billion of the world’s poorest inhabitants.

WTO negotiations in deadlock

Developing countries are battling for permission to override patent restrictions so medicines can be legally copied in developing countries.

With lower production costs and no research and development budget, medicines such as AIDS antiretrovirals, would be on the market at a fraction of today’s price.

WTO negotiations reached deadlock in December 2002, when the US moved to limit the scope of medicines which could be copied, to those designed to treat diseases such as AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

Yet critics and developing countries have strongly opposed this move, saying it would exclude asthma and diabetes which "kill and debilitate millions" according to Oxfam.

Under pressure from member states with large pharmaceutical industries, most notably the UK, the EU has supported the move to limit the number of diseases covered.

Backed by the pharmaceutical lobby, the US has also called for limits on the export rights of generic medicines. Development NGOs say this move will mean that access in the least developed countries, with no domestic production capacity, will be unchanged.

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