G8 declaration on innovation and intellectual property will directly harm access to medicines across the developing world

With international trade laws making medicines patenting far more widespread, newer drugs are becoming unaffordable. Newer medicines are critical, e.g. for the treatment of AIDS, where a second-line drug combination costs at least five times more than first line.

Heiligendamm - The G8 leaders' agreement to demand higher levels of intellectual property protection in emerging economies is set to have a major negative impact on access to affordable medicines in all developing countries and fails to promote health innovation where it is most needed, the international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

Middle-income countries such as India and Brazil are key producers of affordable essential medicines that are used locally and across the developing world.

Generic medicines produced in India, for example, make up more than 80 per cent of antiretrovirals (ARVs) used by MSF to treat over 80,000 patients in its AIDS projects in over 30 countries. The day before meeting a number of developing country leaders, the G8 have already decided to create a new process to further increase patent protection in the developing world, in particular in emerging economies.

"If the G8 further increases patent protection, it will keep prices of new drugs across Africa, Asia and Latin America high and will do nothing to stimulate innovation where it is most needed," said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Director of MSF's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines. "We need AIDS medicines that are more affordable and we also desperately need new and better tests and medicines to treat tuberculosis and tropical diseases."

A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) released in April 2006 found that intellectual property protection does not stimulate development of medicines to treat diseases that primarily affect people in developing countries. Yet G8 leaders solely promote increased intellectual property protection as the way to foster innovation. Although WHO has set up an intergovernmental working group to address the problem of innovation and access for developing countries, the G8 is flatly ignoring this process.

Counterfeit medicines are a danger to people's health that received particular attention by the G8. Similar attention should have been paid to the need for affordable, quality generic medicines upon which poor countries can rely.

With international trade laws making medicines patenting far more widespread, newer drugs are becoming unaffordable. Newer medicines are critical, e.g. for the treatment of AIDS, where a second-line drug combination costs at least five times more than first line.

To address high drug prices, countries such as Brazil and Thailand have recently overcome patent barriers by issuing &#‘compulsory licenses' on several drugs. Although these measures are fully compliant with the TRIPS Agreement of the World Trade Organization, these countries are facing unacceptable pressure and retaliation from some governments and pharmaceutical companies.

By ignoring fora that have traditionally dealt with intellectual property and instead only inviting five emerging economies to talks, the G8 is ignoring the critical input of other developing countries, whose own ability to obtain affordable and appropriate medicines is affected by such discussions.

"Stricter levels of intellectual property protection will only worsen the health crisis in developing countries, where medicines are either unaffordable or simply not available because there is no market to incentivise their development," said Rohit Malpani, Policy Advisor with Oxfam.