Patent Rights vs Patient Rights
social activists, public health advocates, government officials
with dismay that the world is currently facing a global health crisis
characterised by growing inequities within and between countries. Despite
medical advances and increasing life expectancy, there is disturbing evidence
of rising disparities in health status among people worldwide. Enduring
poverty with all its facets and, in addition, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and
related problems are leading to reversal of previous health gains.
that the public's undoubted right to health, as set out in the Constitution
of the World Health Organisation, WHO, brings with it a need and a right
to have access to medicines. At the present day, however, even basic medicines
are not within reach for a great part of the world's population, particularly
in developing countries. Price is the major obstacle for access to many
essential drugs since most drugs are priced far beyond the means of individuals
or even of governments in developing countries. This results in a global
tragedy marked by avoidable ill-health and deaths on a large scale.
we call upon the people and governments of Europe, in particular the Scandinavian
countries, to support the developing countries in ensuring access to basic
medical technologies and essential drugs, including treatment for HIV/AIDS
and other serious conditions, utilising the safeguard provisions of the
TRIPS agreement to the fullest, such as compulsory licensing and parallel
import, within the framework of national comprehensive health and drug
call upon the governments of the industrialised countries to take a clear
stand against the interference by any country seeking to use its economic
power in a manner which undermines the sovereignty of third world countries;
the latter must be entirely free to exercise their legal responsibility
under international rights and obligations and the moral duties to their
people, such as provision of essential drugs and other social services
by utilising international treaties, e.g. TRIPS.
we urge the Third World countries to make adequate allocations for health
and other social sectors to ensure access to all essential medicines by
improving manufacturing and procurement capacity, including ensuring greater
access through such means as compulsory licencing and parallel import
in a manner consistent with TRIPS art. 30 and 31, in particular 31-k.
five major pharmaceutical companies announced the reduction of prices
for certain anti-retroviral drugs in sub-Saharan Africa. Even if this
intent is implemented, the resultant price will remain far beyond the
purchasing capacity of the people of most countries of the world. Experience
with a similar initiative at an earlier date did not yield the desired
results. There is a strong need to make the drug pricing mechanism transparent
to enable countries to purchase drugs at the most favourable prices, and
to secure greater investment in research and development in tropical drugs
with a corresponding reduction in the currently very high costs of marketing.
the fact that many drugs, including drugs for AIDS, cancer, malaria etc,
have been developed by public funds through university and government
laboratories, or in other ways funded by tax-payers and non-profit foundations,
we urge national governments to invest money for research on diseases
prevalent in the respective countries usually affecting the poor, and
impose an obligation on all pharmaceutical companies, national and foreign,
to reinvest a fair percentage of their pharmaceutical sales income for
the same purpose.
upon the World Health Organisation to monitor and circulate regularly
and systematically information on drug prices in various countries and
expiry dates of patents, to enable poor countries to benefit from such
information. The WHO should also assist poor countries to procure affordable
drugs through implementation of a strong generic drug policy, bulk purchasing,
negotiations with pharmaceutical companies and adequate financing.
urge the WHO to take a lead role in initiating research into poverty-related
diseases and health service delivery, with the financial help from its
wealthier member states. And we congratulate those European countries
that have fulfilled their obligation to allocate 0.7% of their respective
national income for the development of the Third World countries, and
urge all rich countries to follow suit and fulfil their international
the call on the World Trade Organisation, made in the Amsterdam Statement
of 28 November 1999, to form a working group on access to medicine to
examine critical issues that effect the implementation of the existing
We strongly urge the civil society and NGO networks to participate actively in increasing access to essential drugs and examining the sometimes adverse repercussions of international trade agreements on the lives of ordinary citizens in developing countries.
The international Workshop on Patent Rights vs Patient Rights was jointly organised by the University of Bergen and University of Tromso, Medecins Sans Frontieres and Diakonhjemmet International Centre, and took place at Diakonhjemmet, Oslo, Norway.