Use WTO’s Doha to ensure access to affordable medicines, FTA said

THE multisectoral Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) urges government to use the policy flexibilities entrenched at the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Doha declaration on TRIPs (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property) and public health to ensure that every Filipino will have access to affordable and quality medicines.

Angelito Mendoza, labor convenor of FTA said, “The WTO Doha declaration on TRIPs and public health upholds the rights of governments to enforce measures that will protect public health and, in particular, promote access to medicines for all. It also gives WTO member-states with various tools like parallel importation and compulsory licensing to fulfill public health obligations and ensure access to cheaper drugs.”

Through parallel importation, patented medicines can be purchased from the cheapest source, rather than from the manufacturer. Compulsory licensing on the other hand will allow Philippine government to order a local firm to produce a drug and pay a negotiated royalty to the patent holder.

“Both parallel importation and compulsory licensing are permitted under the WTO’s Doha declaration on TRIPs and public health. Without these flexibilities, which would allow Filipinos access to cheaper generic drugs, more Filipinos will suffer and die needlessly.

It is public knowledge that the prices of medicines in the country is one of the highest, if not the highest, at least in Asia and the Pacific because of the monopoly of the multinational drug companies in the 80-100 billion peso Philippine pharmaceutical market.

This monopoly is often sustained by the patent rights of these companies over these medicines, whose patents comprise more than 90% of the patents granted by the PITC, as against local or Filipino pharmaceutical companies.

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