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Trade Agreements Could Harm Access To Antiretroviral Drugs In Asia, Pacific, Experts And Activists Warn

“Pressure on developing countries to adopt clauses affecting intellectual property rights could limit access to generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in Asia and the Pacific, experts and activists warn,” PlusNews reports. According to Steven Kraus, director of the UNAIDS program in Asia and the Pacific region, only about one-third of the people in need of treatment in the region receive it, and the long-term sustainability of even that proportion will be challenging in the current economic climate, the news service notes. Kraus said World Trade Organization (WTO) member states should take advantage of flexibilities under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to manufacture and procure generic versions of medications “to ensure sustainability and the significant scale-up of HIV services to reach people most in need,” PlusNews continues.

“However, bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Economic Partnership Agreements could contain clauses that undermine the TRIPS flexibilities, such as extending the life of patents beyond 20 years,” the news service states and discusses the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (TPP) currently under negotiation in the region. Activists say the TPP — a multilateral trade agreement among Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, and the United States — “will threaten access to generic medicines and are urging those countries still negotiating, such as Malaysia and Vietnam, not to join,” according to PlusNews (7/12).