U.S. Government Actions to Obtain Low-Cost Cipro Stand in ‘Stark Contrast’ to Position on TRIPS, Lancet Editorial Says
The U.S. government's actions to secure low-cost Cipro in the wake of the anthrax scare stand in "stark contrast" to the pressure it has placed on developing nations to "limit compulsory licensing and parallel importing" of drugs to combat national health emergencies such as HIV/AIDS, a Lancet editorial states, citing the government's threats to override Bayer AG's patent on the drug if the company did not lower its price. The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement sets drug patents at 20 years, but allows World Trade Organization member nations to produce or import generic versions of patented medications in the event of a national health emergency. Developing nations have recently proposed clarifying the agreement language to better facilitate such action. However, "[e]ven where there is clear evidence of a public-health emergency, such as the HIV crisis in Africa and many parts of Asia, the U.S. government has used its might to limit those countries' options to provide affordable drugs," the editorial states. Clarifications to the agreement "favor public-health needs over patent protection and are urgently needed ... however, the U.S. government, backed by Japan, Switzerland and Canada, is opposing change," the editorial notes. "It is time that the U.S. government recognized that a 'comprehensive and coordinated effort' [such as the one it agreed to wage in the international fight against HIV/AIDS] means that public-health needs may have to override trade profits," the editorial states, concluding that the U.S. government "should apply the same standards abroad as at home in defining what is, or is not, a public-health emergency" (Lancet, 11/10).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.