access

And again the issue of essential drugs patents

MSF goes back in again along with Thailand’s government to secure access to essential drugs, certainly one of the most critical public health issue for this decade in low- and middle-income countries… and quite likely in some high-income countries as well.

Here is the call:

““Europe! HANDS OFF Our Medicine”

Bangkok, 20 October 2010As the European Commission (EC) continues negotiations on a trade agreement with India that could block access to life-saving generic medicines, here in Thailand we are coming together to add our voices to a growing global campaign to stop Europe’s multiple attempts to restrict access to these medicines for patients across the developing world.

“We depend on access to affordable generic medicines like those produced in India to treat all kinds of diseases, including HIV/AIDS, heart disease and cancer. We buy two vital HIV/AIDS medicines (efavirenz and lopinavir/ritonavir) from India – medicines that keep tens of thousands of Thai people alive today,” said Apiwat Kwangkeaw, the chairperson of Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS “On their behalf, we cannot remain silent as Europe works to close the door on every aspect of drug supply – the production of a generic medicine, its registration, and its transportation to patients in other parts of the world. So today we are launching a campaign demanding ‘Europe! HANDS OFF our medicine.”

Tomorrow (21 October 2010) Mr. David Lipman, European Union Ambassador to Thailand, will be at the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre to formally open the European Union Film Festival. We will be there to hand him a letter requesting that he publically state that the European Union and its member states will ensure that the European Commission negotiators will remove all demands in current and future trade agreements with developing countries that pose any threat to access to the life saving generic medicines we all depend upon.

The India-EU agreement is just one of many attacks on generic medicines currently being undertaken by the EC.  Through other bilateral trade agreements around the world, Europe is threatening the production of safe, effective and affordable medicines by demanding tougher intellectual property provisions than anything required under international law.  Europe is also a driving force in the secret negotiations for an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, where it is leading the push for measures that would put limits on the generic production of medicines.

Already the impact of these policies has been felt by patients:  under EC customs regulations, legitimate generic medicines destined for developing countries have been detained in European ports, putting the lives of patients at risk.

“What the Europeans are doing is effectively snatching the medicines out of our hands,” said Supatra Nakapeaw, Chair of Thai NGO Coalition on AIDS “The European Union might have good reputation on supporting the arts and culture, you will see at the film festival. However a hidden face of the European Union needs to be revealed as it threatens so many lives in Thailand and the rest of the developing world. It’s not much difference from the US, somehow even worse. If Europe has its way and shuts off  this source, we risk killing the success of what has been achieved here in the last ten years.”

A recent study found that up to 90% of certain AIDS medicines bought by international donors – including European governments – in 2008 were sourced from generic producers in India. Shutting down this supply of affordable medicines would be devastating for the millions on or awaiting treatment.

“Europe is clearly taking every opportunity it can find to shut off the tap of affordable generic medicines for people in developing countries,” said Paul Cawthorne, Coordinator of Médecins sans Frontières Access to Essential Medicines Campaign.  “Together with other civil society groups across the world, we are demanding that Europe “BACK OFF NOW” and we are asking everyone, everywhere to support our campaign, and go to https://action.msf.org and join us in sending a message to the European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht to get his HANDS OFF our medicines”

To join us in saying  “EUROPE! HANDS OFF OUR MEDICINE”  visit:

https://action.msf.org