May 312012

The UN Development Programme and UNAIDS released a joint policy brief this week at workshop on the “Use of TRIPS Flexibilities and Access to Affordable ARVs in Asia.”  The paper notes that the use of TRIPS flexibilities has expanded the number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy from 300,000 in 2002 to over 6.6 million in 2010.  It warns that FTA provisions that broaden patentability, restrict patent oppositions, extend patent duration, require data exclusivity, require patent-registration linkage, and enhance IP enforcement all limit the use of these flexibilities.  Therefore, these TRIPS-Plus provisions “may adversely impact medicine prices and consequently, access to treatment.”

The briefing paper concludes that “to retain the benefits of TRIPS Agreement flexibilities, countries, at minimum should avoid entering into FTAs that contain TRIPS-plus obligations that can impact on pharmaceuticals price or availability. Where countries have undertaken TRIPS-plus commitments, all efforts should be made to mitigate the negative impact of these commitments on access to treatment by using to the fullest extent possible, remaining public health related flexibilities available.”

The regional workshop, hosted by the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV, UNDP and UNAIDS, was held in order to bring together government and civil society from various Asian countries to enhance the use of TRIPS Flexibilities, and therefore to increase the number of people receiving treatment.  The workshop’s specific objectives were:

  1. To enhance knowledge and understanding of the TRIPS flexibilities as interpreted in the 2001 Doha Declaration, and of the possible impact of TRIPS Plus provisions in Free Trade Agreements and of other IP enforcement initiatives on access to affordable ARVs ;
  2. To facilitate the establishment of country coordination mechanisms to develop and implement roadmaps for securing and expanding full use of TRIPS flexibilities by 2015;
  3. To identify areas of support from regional and global partners and agree on roles and responsibilities in providing that support.