Gobal Broadcast Treaty and public interest

Statement to WIPO SCCR 28 on Broadcasting Treaty by TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue

 

Broadcaaster lobby material

Broadcaster lobby material

 

Broadcasting Treaty: Collateral damage to public access

 

Consumers and users around the world do not want new layers of complications, barriers and costs added to their access to information, news and knowledge. The strong push towards a binding Broadcasting Treaty with a wide scope is in stark contrast with the rigid opposition on the part of a number of member states to even discussing new global norms to facilitate the essential cultural and scientific role played by libraries and archives. This contradiction is not understood by millions of consumers and citizens around the world.

Do we want to follow the greatest success stories with regards to public broadcasting that are based on flexible, fair copyright frameworks or do would we like to create new complicated and expensive legal barriers that inhibit innovative and plural public broadcasting?

If we consider public broadcasting a public good, is it acceptable to move toward creating a new global binding legal standard of copyright protection for broadcasting signals without first making clear exceptions and limitations to this new norm that are essential to the flow of information and culture?

We would like to know if the Broadcasting Treaty will threaten the right to freely quote broadcasts or circulate snippets of news. Consumers and users must know if the concrete scope of this legal norm will mean new obstacles to what we often access and share daily. We are afraid we might be opening up an endless, incomprehensible pandora box of overlapping rights on content between non-creators (broadcasters) and creators. We are also concerned that the protection of post-fixation rights can have a very negative impact in the online use of culture, news and information by consumers and users.

In the consideration of a new international legal norm for broadcasters we must not forget the common good of the free flow of information for citizens. The focus of our work should not be limited to satisfying the wish-list of one special interest group while ignoring the possible unintentional negative consequences on normal users.

Very clear public interest red-lines need to be drawn up, the scope of rights must be narrowly, clearly defined and the social impact of these new rights must previously be evaluated by independent experts.

David Hammerstein, TACD

TRIPS, the European Commission and the European Medicines Agency´s clinical trial transparency policy

Nothing in international intellectual property law constitutes a serious barrier to the publication of clinical trial data for the sake of public health.

 

In his letter to the European Ombudsman dated 22 May 2014, the Director of the European Medicines Mr Rasi refers to a “clear message” of the European Commission relating to the need to ensure compliance with national and international agreements, including, but not limited to, TRIPS and copyright legislation. It can be deduced that the EMA has received a “clear message” that its “proactive” clinical trial transparency policy could be violating international IPR law.

 

One cannot derive from TRIPs article 39.3, that refers to clinical data, any general obligation against the disclosure of clinical trial data.This is clear in the text itself:

‘Members, when requiring, as a condition of approving the marketing of pharmaceutical or of agricultural chemical products which utilize new chemical entities, the submission of undisclosed test or other data, the origination of which involves a considerable effort, shall protect such data against unfair commercial use. In addition, Members shall protect such data against disclosure, except where necessary to protect the public, or unless steps are taken to ensure that the data are protected against unfair commercial use.’

Moreover, a number of interpretations of TRIPs clarify that the disclosure of clinical trial data for the sake of transparency and public health cannot be considered “unfair commercial actvity” (which is not defined). A number of WHO/WTO documents insist that clinical trial disclosure and article 39.3 of TRIPs should be seen within the context of the Doha Declaration on flexibilities for Public Health. See this WHO document: http://www.who.int/medicines/areas/policy/protection_of_data.pdf and from the WTO http://wto.org/english/res_e/booksp_e/pamtiwhowipowtoweb13_e.pdf;

It is true that to date there is no case law precedence nor other very authoritative interpretations on the TRIPs articles referring to clinical trial data. But in this context it specially surprising that the European Commission (DG Trade and DG Enterprise) is pressuring the EMA to roll-back on its data transparency measures with the pretext of international patent, trademark and copyright concerns that are not backed up by a clear legal basis.

Human rights vs. patent monopolies on medicines in Greece

Human rights VS Patent Monopolies on medicines

Written by Mr. Panayotis Kouroublis, Greek MP, SYRIZA parliamentary representative

Published at http://www.koutipandoras.gr/article/113023/anthropina-dikaiomata-enantion-pneymatikon-dikaiomaton on 3 May 2014

 

“Diseases such as cancer are considered urgent only when the patient is in the final stage” according to the Greek Minister of Health Adonis Georgiadis in the “Wall Street Journal”. This is the response of the Ministry of Health in relation to the uninsured cancer patients who are forced to discontinue their treatment because they cannot afford it. The blatant cynicism displayed by the government is not only due to the dogmatic faith of the Greek government in the agreements with the Troika but also due to the government’s incapacity to effectively address a series of problems. Minister Georgiadis stresses that there is no room for flexibility in the austerity measures. Nevertheless, solutions  are feasible and are foreseen by international law. Most importantly, these have already been implemented by other European countries.

 

The WTO TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement enables a country facing an emergency to issue a compulsory license for products protected by copyright. If Greece decided to use this legal provision, it could obtain anticancer and other drugs at much cheaper prices while bypassing, in an entirely legitimate manner, the patents held by multinationals. Compulsory licensing has been used in numerous countries including Germany, Italy and the USA. This solution should be taken into account by the Greek government which nonetheless refuses to examine it, despite its proven efficacy. Another solution that is worth considering would be the collective supply of medicines (pooled procurement) by several EU member states joining forces. If Greece decided to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies together with other countries of southern Europe; it could obtain much cheaper prices for much-needed medicines.

 

The current government is accountable to the Greek people because of its persistent refusal to take advantage of the considerable flexibility provided by the European and international context as regards the supply and procurement of drugs. This is the least, a responsible leadership should have done in view of the humanitarian crisis, the country is faced with. For SYRIZA; the political force fighting for the peoples of Europe and not the multinationals, the bar stands even higher. As a leading opposition party in a country found at the heart of the European financial  crisis;  SYRIZA’s leader, a candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission will strive to  broaden the scope for a different Europe. SYRIZA must question the overall status quo of pharmaceutical research funding, which results in the exclusion of millions of patients from health care to the benefit of some big pharmaceutical companies.

Funding for research into new drugs based on intellectual property creates legal monopolies that favour the companies that have developed these drugs. In essence , the company that owns the patent of a drug is the only one entitled to sell it and it can do so at any price it wishes. Big pharmaceuticals argue that this is the only way to meet the high costs of research and development. The truth is that the cost of R&D constitutes a very small percentage of the  total cost of developing a new medicine. In other words, expensive price tags are a way for profiteering for big companies while putting human lives at risk. It is indicative that prices of anticancer drugs have doubled over the last decade; despite angry reactions by doctors and patients’ associations .

 

The current patent system results in prohibitive costs for patients as well as in a huge waste for healthcare providers. It most importantly raises a wall between the drugs and those who need them the most. It has additional side effects: such as the development of drugs with questionable efficacy, the encouragement of agreessive and misleading  promotional practices on behalf of major pharmaceuticals and the obstruction of the development of new, better and affordable drugs. On the whole; the present system of the financing of medical innovation is manifestly unfair, wasteful, ineffective and undermines the right to health of Greeks and Europeans.

 

The goal should be to “delink” the incentives for research and development from the high prices of patented originator drugs. This can be achieved by setting up a fund for rewarding pharmaceutical innovation to which EU Member States will contribute.This Fund will reward research efforts of private and public entities driven by health outcomes with a view to promoting further research for the benefit of patients. This way companies will be compensated for the costs of research, while the medicinal products will be available in free competition with generics.  To this end, drug approval will be under the strict supervision of European and national authorities to ensure the quality .

 

This is something not unheard of. Under pressure from patients’ associations , health professionals and activists, such proposals have long been discussed at the World Health Organization and the U.S. Congress. The proposed system is much fairer providing a) lower prices and access to life-saving treatments while b) reducing costs for healthcare providers. Finally, it is far more efficient, since it seeks to serve real health needs and not artificial ones created by companies’ marketing strategies.

 

Europe must prioritise the right of patients to the drugs they need over the right of companies to a monopoly. Today, it is more pertinent than ever. In today’s Greece, where patients literally fight for their lives; their call should be heard across Europe; human rights are more important than multintionals’ intellectual property rights.

 

Health is the most critical, but not the only sector where large companies impose their rule by force of intellectual property rights. In recent years the proliferation of IPR in many unrelated fields, from seed growers to software developers and from cultural projects to any kind of scientific achievements; the product of human creativity is captured by large companies using IPR monopolies. Society is thus deprived from the most valuable good in the era of information: free access to knowledge.

 

Proponents of strict patents laws overlook the fact that in science, as in arts, there is no parthenogenesis. The essence of human progress is to copy and modify previous works in order to improve them. Moreover, major scientific achievements rarely are the result of profit-oriented research. These are most often achieved ??by individuals or groups with humanitarian motives experimenting freely with the works of their predecessors. The global free software community that produces innovative and reliable products pro bono capitalizing on existing knowledge without restrictions is another tangible proof. The same was true in the 17th century when Sir Isaac Newton gave credit to Galileo and Kepler, saying : “If I saw farther , it is because I stepped on the shoulders of giants.”

 

Large multinationals attempt to go against the tide of the dynamism we experience today by trying to control, manipulate and direct intellectual property through legislation. During the ongoing negotiations for the new Transatlantic Free Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP), the EU should stay away from instituionalising the demands of industry. There should be a new set of rules which will foster innovation and creativity where access to knowledge will be governed by the principles of freedom, justice and equity .

 

EP Elections pledge: Europe for access to medicines and public health care

10 commitments for candidates to the European Parliament

1. Defend universal access to public health care systems without discrimination for reasons of economic capacity, employment status or nationality. Support the principle of the integration of health aspects into all European policies. Call upon the intervention of the European Commission if the right to health is violated, especially in countries affected by EU mandated public debt reduction policies.
2. Demand the carrying out of an independent health impact evaluation before any substantial financial cut-backs of public health systems when they occur within the context of EU supported austerity measures.

3. Support the creation of a EU fund for health-care solidarity to help EU member states where a hight number of people remain without health-care coverage as a result of EU mandated austerity measures.

4. Promote transparency and public access to data from all clinical trials for existing and new biomedical products.

5. Foster EU cooperation on health technology assessment and promote the use of transparent, unbiased, and robust methodologies to measure the effectiveness and added value of new medicines and technologies

6. Ensure the effective application of the EU Research Programme Horizon 2020 provisions that mandate open access policies for scientific articles and data generated from research financed with EU funding. Support EU policies such as innovation prizes that promote de-linkage between biomedical R and D costs and the price of new medicines.

7. Call for for a new binding EU regulation that demands transparency and full disclosure of the economic relationship between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry.

8. Defend strict EU norms in favour of socially responsible licencing policies for biomedical innovation that has received EU funding.

9. Support the issuing of compulsory licences to guarantee the affordable access to very high-priced life-saving drugs with great evidence of efficacy, such as the case of a treatment against hepatitis C and a few anti-tumoral medicines.

10. Promote fair and equitable EU international trade and development policies that facilitate universal access to essential medicines and that support strong EU funding for research on “neglected” and tropical illnesses that tend to affect countries of the Global South.

Send your support to: david@davidhammerstein.org and teresa.salinas@saludpordercho.org

Declaration written and coordinated by Working Group on Health, Medicines and Innovation (GTSMI), TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue,  Salud Por Derecho saludporderecho.org, Médicins du Monde, Spain, Pharmacists without Borders, Spain,  Confederation of Consumers and Users, Spain, and No Gracias, among other groups and individuals.

Copyright meets broadcasting in Geneva

copyright

 

The 27th session of the World Intellectual Property Organization´s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) took place from 28 April to 2 May in Geneva. The Committee assessed the proposal for a Broadcasting Treaty.

 

This initiative for a new binding global copyright treaty has been discussed at WIPO for over 10 years at the request of many broadcasters from around the world. This week, several WIPO member states, including the EU, Russia and South Africa called for a diplomatic conference on this treaty in 2015. Nevertheless, there are many questions that remain to be answered, in particular regarding the scope and even the need for such a new global norm. The EU is the strongest supporter of the Treaty while a number of other large countries, such as the US, Brazil and India, are quite sceptical.

 

According to the broadcasters, a new treaty is needed to prevent “signal piracy”, although it has not been clearly established what signals they wish to protect, whether they are speaking of fixed emissions, simultaneous webcasting, deferred online programming or online retransmissions. There has also been no evidence presented about the harm caused by “signal piracy”.

 

Many other voices have pointed out that this new treaty would establish yet a new layer of copyright protection and economic rights for broadcasters as intermediaries or distributors of information they do not own and they did not create. Consumers and internet users have also stated fears that the treaty would make it more expensive and complex to legally obtain, access and to use information. There is also worry that new technical protection measures will create new barriers to what is now legally allowed by copyright law in countries with more flexible norms.

 

Representatives of collecting societies, performers and authors have criticised the Broadcast Treaty proposal as possibly interfering with the normal of copyright protection for creators. A few citizen groups have also called for an impact study to be carried out on the possible consequences of this treaty on users, performers and authors.

 

When on 2 May, the time came to adopt conclusions and the next steps for WIPO concerning the Broadcast Treaty, the member states were unable to reach any degree of minimum consensus. The collapse of the talks and the absence of any general conclusions or decisions did not happen because of the differences of opinion on the Broadcast Treaty but because of the other issue being considered simultaneously by WIPO: exceptions and limitations for libraries. The EU expressed its profound opposition to any “text-based” consideration of new copyright flexibilities for libraries for conservation, orphan works, scientific research and e-book sharing, among other issues. In response to the EU´s uncompromising stance, other countries, such as Brazil, decided to withdraw their support for the compromise reached to continue serious discussions on the Broadcast Treaty. At 1:30 am on 3 May the meeting adjourned with no agreement on how to proceed on both the Broadcast Treaty and Libraries.

 

SCCR 27 WIPO *New* Broadcasters’ Treaty: Impact on Rights Owners (30.04.2104)
http://keionline.org/node/1995

 

At WIPO, Authors, Civil Society Watchful Of Rights For Broadcasters (01.05.2014)
http://www.ip-watch.org/2014/05/01/at-wipo-authors-civil-society-watchful-of-rights-for-broadcasters/

 

EFF – Broadcasting Treaty
https://www.eff.org/issues/wipo-broadcasting-treaty

 

WIPO: Scope and rights of potential broadcasting treaty clarified (05.05.2014)
http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/intellectual_property/info.service/2014/ip140502.htm

 

Protection of Broadcasting Organizations – Background Brief
http://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/briefs/broadcasting.html

 

(Contribution by David Hammerstein – TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue)

Published in http://edri.org/copyright-meets-broadcasting-in-geneva/

Copyright Treaty for Blind moves forward with EU signature and India´s ratification

 

 wipo Tvi signing

 

 

On 30 April 2014, the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union, represented by the Ambassador of Greece to the UN in Geneva, Alexandros Alexandris signed the Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities also known as the Marrakesh Treaty on behalf of the European Union. The signing ceremony took place at the headquarters of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (henceforth WIPO) in Geneva during the organisation’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) taking place from 28 April to 2 May. France, Greece and India also signed during the ceremony in the presence of WIPO’s Director General Mr. Francis Gurry. This brings the total number of signatories to 64.

 

 

This international binding UN/WIPO treaty for the first time aims at ending the “book famine” that deprives 250 million people of access to culture and education. Visually impaired persons only have access to between 1 and 5% of the books published. The agreement focuses on copyright exceptions to facilitate the creation of accessible and affordable versions of books and other copyrighted works. It sets a norm for countries ratifying the Treaty to have a domestic copyright exception covering these activities, and allowing for the import and export of such material.

 

 

Irini Stamatoudi, Director General to the Hellenic Copyright Organisation in her speech referred to the fact that the Presidencyhas put its best endeavors to have the decision of the signing of the Marrakesh Treaty by the EU adopted as soon as possible and we succeeded in this goal”.She also stressed that“we want to convey a strong message that we want this Treaty to work and serve its original purpose”.

 

 

India sets the example

 

 

India pledged to ratify the Treaty by the end of May 2014. India will be the first major world power to ratify it while numerous lessons can be learned from the country’s preparation in order to put the Treaty into effect. There is still considerable work to be done as many EU member states have not yet signed let alone ratified the Marrakesh Treaty even though it has been almost a year since its conclusion. For the Treaty to come into effect, ratification by 20 countries is required.

 

 

Executive Director of the European Blind Union (EBU) Central office Mokrane Boussaïd stated that when the treaty is ratified it will open up “huge new opportunities for over 30 million blind and partially sighted people living in Europe in terms of access to information and culture, as well as people with other print disabilities.” He also called for a speedy ratification of the treaty in signatory countries. Ratification must be as widespread as possible, he said, because only organisations in countries which ratify the treaty will be able to exchange books under the terms of this treaty.

 

For more information, please visit:

 

http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/marrakesh

 

http://www.worldblindunion.org/english/news/Pages/The-Treaty-of-Marrakesh.aspx

 

 

UFOS IN GENEVA

 

 

 

TACD oral statement to WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights

 

 

Before commenting the Broadcast Treaty I would like to congratulate the European Union and India for their signature tomorrow of the Marrakesh Treaty for visually impaired persons and their commitment to swift ratification of this Treaty.

 

 

The Broadcast Treaty has become a UFO, an unidentified flying object that has been buzzing around this room for years. No one can define it, there are many far-fetched theories, no one knows what planet it has come from, no one can understand which language, signal or frequency they speak, and, more importantly, to some people this UFO exists but for others it is a creation of our imagination.

 

 

1.  TACD opposes the grant of any new layer of intellectual property rights for broadcasters that would make it more expensive and complex to legally obtain, access and to use information. 

 

 

2.The Treaty would create many problems for consumers specially if it is without very clear fixation rights limitations.

 

 

3.  Many of the people that TACD represents use information from broadcasts in blogs and in the creation of documentaries and commentary, and we therefore support robust exceptions to any new rights, to protect our access to works and their use, and we are against new rules that might create barriers to what is now legally allowed by copyright law in countries with flexible norms.

 

 

4.  At some point, after people figure out what the broadcast treaty is supposed to do and it stops being a UFO, WIPO should carry out an impact study to show how it will impact consumers, performers and authors.

 

 

Then maybe we shall finally find out whether this Unidentified Flying Object called the Broadcast Treaty really exists or not. Thank you.

 

 

 

A victory for medicine trial transparency but there is still a long way to go

 

 canScience

 

The European Parliament voted on Wednesday the adoption of the new Clinical Trials Regulation, which has removed the legal framework on commercial confidentiality that previously allowed pharma not to publish its data. With the new Regulation information from trial study reports on the efficacy and safety of new medicines should not be considered commercially confidential.

 

The Regulation also requires, among other things, that

 

  • all drug trials in Europe are registered on the publicly accessible EU clinical trials register

  • a summary of the results — “understandable to a lay person” — from these trials is published on the register within a year of the trial’s end

  • Clinical Study Reports are be made publicly available, and that

  • a new, publicly accessible EU clinical trials register is set up and run by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

 

This new EU transparency policy goes significantly beyond the FDA´s policy in the US (similar to the initial European Commission proposal for the Regulation) that only requires a summary of the trial to be publicly available. The most important improvement is that it mandates the publishing Clinical Study Reports (CSRs), which are comprehensive documents presenting clinical trial results in a detailed and structured manner, thatshould not be considered commercially confidential once a marketing authorisation has been granted, the decision making process on the application for a marketing authorisation has been completed, or an application for marketing authorisation has been withdrawn(Recital 20a).

 

This victory for transparency is only partial. It only applies to new medicines starting in 2016 and a number of large and dangerous loopholes remain. As well, Big Pharma has announced that they will try to influence the implementation of the Regulation to restrict the new pro-transparency rules. The European pharma industry association, EFPIA, has said that “[It] is critical that the Commission and EMA interpret the Clinical Trial Regulation in a manner that respects patient privacy, the integrity of regulatory decision-making, and incentives for companies to make long-term investments in biomedical research.

 

 

Some of Regulation´s loopholes are the following:

 

- It fails to mandate that investigators (clinicians) and not the industrial sponsors report all serious adverse reactions to health authorities, whether they are “expected” or “unexpected”, meaning that safety data can still be withheld.

 

-It allows for “low intensity trials”, either post-authorization or “off-label”, and “non-commercial” trials to have much lower reporting requirements.

 

-It fails to require comparative clinical trials so that the new medicine would be compared with the reference (“gold standard”) treatment, as opposed to only a placebo, in order to determine whether it has a therapeutic advantage over existing treatments.

-It does not mandate the public registration of all individual trial patient data.

 

 

The transparency camp will have to be vigilant throughout the long implementation process of the Clinical Trial Directive to assure a positive, pro-public health interpretation of the legislation. The Pharma industry will continue lobbying the EU institutions and the EMA heavily in the opposite direction.

 

 

Unfortunately, other threats to clinical trial transparency are looming. In the coming months the European Parliament will be considering the Trade Secret Directive that could have a devastating impact on transparency by re-affirming commercial confidentiality as a legal imperative. We must also be conscious of the negotiations of the EU-US Free Trade Agreement, TTIP, that is also discussing new transatlantic rules proposed in Big Pharma that would roll back any gains made in the present regulation.

 

 

The new Clinical Trial Regulation has been a partial but significant victory for civil society, socially committed medical professionals and the independent scientific community. This coalition must stay organized if we wish to move forward an ambitious agenda for medical science based on evidence and public health needs.

Text of Clinical Trial Regulation: http://register.consilium.europa.eu/doc/srv?l=EN&t=PDF&gc=true&sc=false&f=ST%2017866%202013%20INIT:

 

 

Students forge new thinking on access to medicines and innovation

 

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) is a promising and inspiring international student network focusing on access to medicines and biomedical innovation. They have a  strong presence in the US and Germany and are growing all over Europe with local chapters. Most of them are undergrad medical students even though there are law and global health students involved as well.

 

The conference entitled “Shooting up-Raising expectations about R&D” organised by the UK branch on 25 January 2013 in UCL had a great line-up of prominent speakers among whom Nobel laureate Sir John Hulston, Katy Athersuch (MSF Access Campaign), James Love and David Hammerstein (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=141b9vyTkWU). The conference came at a very timely moment, just days after the remarks by Bayer CEO Decker who stated that a new cancer drug is not for Indians but for western patients who can afford it and in the midst of the pharmagate scandal in South Africa over Pharma lobbying against lower prices for life saving medicines.   Sir Robin Jacob, Professor of intellectual property Law at UCL opened the conference explaining that patents are not to be blamed for the problems we are faced with today in accessible and affordable medicines but instead patentes are fermenters of innovation. He also critisized compulsory-licensing as well as strict regulation but was unable to give any concrete answers  when asked about the serious access to medicines crisis in many parts of the world, rich and poor. He defended the wildly exaggerated 1bn myth regarding the cost of the development of a each new drug, belittled the contribution of pubic research funding and stood firmly by the view that there is no alternative solution to strong patent monopolies.  

 

All the other speakers opposed Sir Jacob´s strong pro-IPR stances and their over arching theme  was that public health should not be treated as any other commodity but as a common good which needs to be available to everyone. Many of the problems that societies have to cope with today, in terms of affordable, access to medicines, stem from the current IP-dominated medical innovation model which is obviously broken and is no longer delivering the medicnes people need.  To put it simply, patents create monopolies which skyrocket drug prices. It was also clear that access to affordable life-saving treatments is no longer a problem of the developing world as big pharmaceutical industries tend to present it. but It  affects affects large parts of the developed world including the US and Europe. As Sir Sulston put it “in improving justice in health, we contribute to the future of humanity”. Moreover, he emphasized the importance of scientific research as through science we understand ourselves better.In this respect, he sounded the alarm in relation to the fact that research carried out by universities is increasingly linked to and guided by commercial interests. This is why; he stressed a) the need to rebalance scientific research toward the public interest  and b) the promotion of open data and open science so as to fully take advantage of the potential of public investment. He criticized the fact that what is expected today from non-profit funding of research is actually making profit through patents. He added that this profit is not reinvested in further discovery but on the contrary, it is channelled into marketing, publicity and into coercing government and international officials.  

UAEM’s initiatives are very worthwhile and serve multiple purposes as  they fully support an open, health needs-driven innovation model that favour access to medicines as opposed to closed, market-driven patent monopolies.  Hundreds of future health professionals are forging a fairer future for affordable, high quality biomedical innovation.  They are trying to place patients before patents, health before profits, a moral imperative on which millions of lives depend.

 

Yannis Natsis, TACD

Patients before Patents – Response to The Economist by MSF and Oxfam

 

Protect patients, not patents

SIR – You argued that “protection should not be weakened” on pharmaceutical patents (“The new drugs war”, January 4th). Drug patents protect drug-companies’ profits, not patients. The industry promotes several myths to justify its outlandish prices, such as that it costs $1 billion to develop a new medicine, that private companies pay for all drug R&D costs (government and tax-subsidised institutions contribute heavily), that stronger patent protection equates to more innovation and that people in America and Europe must subsidise the rest of the world’s medicines.

The truth is that pharmaceutical companies charge high prices and reap enormous profits because they can. Tiered pricing not only blocks access for most of the world’s poor, it also does nothing to bring down costs. As a medical organisation providing treatment for tuberculosis, HIV and other diseases, it has long been clear to us that the current system for medical innovation is broken. Today, millions of people in both rich and poor countries are staring at a steady wave of diseases that come with age, and realise they can’t afford to pay for the medicines to treat them.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in its current form will only exacerbate this growing health crisis by allowing drug firms to extend monopolies beyond the 20 years already guaranteed under global trade rules, as well as limiting governments’ ability to regulate prices.

Rohit Malpani
Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign
Geneva

* SIR – The amount of money pharmaceutical companies report to spend on researching and developing new medicines is notoriously secretive. Companies tell us they spend $1.5 billion annually, but this information (based on a single study funded by the companies themselves) has not been independently verified.

Also, the pharmaceutical industry has been pricing its patent medicines differently in developing countries for decades, yet despite companies’ claims to the contrary these products have not flooded American or European markets.

Developing countries rely on generic medicines to meet their needs, and not off-patent branded medicines as your article claimed. You praised Roche for selling its products cheaply in Egypt but did not mention that they only did so after an Egyptian generic company, Minapharm, manufactured and sold drugs at a third of the original price..

Dr Mohga Kamal-Yanni
Senior Health Policy Adviser for Oxfam
Oxford