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EU Policies Threaten Developing Countries Drug Supplies, Report Says

A report, released Tuesday, from Oxfam International and Health Action International says the EU is putting big drug companies’ interests ahead of “millions of people” in developing countries who do not have access to essential medicines, Agence France-Presse reports (10/20).

“The EU’s actions also undermine its obligations to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, as well as World Trade Organization agreements, the two organizations said in the report,” Pharmabiz.com writes. The report comes just as some countries, including India and Brazil, are set to file a complaint against the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, with the World Trade Organization. The filing is related to a seizure of drugs last year, intercepted in Europe on their way to developing countries.

“The report also assumes significance against the backdrop of the renewed efforts by the European Union to reframe the counterfeit drugs laws and insistence on tough new intellectual property rules in bilateral free trade deals …” that go beyond existing standards, according to Pharmabiz.com (Alexander, 10/21).

“Since late last year Germany and the Netherlands have made customs seizures of 19 shipments of generic medicines bound for developing countries, the report says. … Many of these medicines are urgently needed to treat life-threatening conditions such as AIDS,” Inter Press Service reports. The report also says that EU policies are increasing drug costs, which are “hitting the poorest people in developing countries disproportionately hard, as 20-60 percent of their health budgets are spent on medicines,” and lists several other EU policies that restrict access to medicines in developing countries.

“The EU is guilty of double standards,” according to Elise Ford, Oxfam’s head of EU advocacy. “One rule for the rich and another for the poor. A crackdown on European pharmaceutical prices is happening alongside a concerted effort to further push intellectual property rules that prevent poor countries from buying affordable medicines,” she said. According to Ford, the European Commission and member states should work together to create development and trade policies that promote access to healthcare affordable medicines (Suri, 10/20).