EU to support medicine access for poorest countries

Brussels, Sep 10 (IANS) The European Union (EU) is proposing to grant the least developed countries indefinite exemption from World Trade Organisation (WTO) intellectual property rules for pharmaceuticals, the European Commission, EU’s executive body said on Thursday.

Allowing generic medicines to be imported and produced locally, even when licences are not available, would give the poorest countries easier access to cheaper medicines, the European Commission said, Xinhua reported.

Thus, producers of generics and international programmes can supply drugs like HIV treatment in affected countries without fear of patent infringement suits.

“Although patents stimulate innovation in developed and emerging economies, intellectual property rules should be a non-issue when the world’s poorest are in need of treatment,” European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement.

The WTO has granted a time-limited exemption before to these countries, but the European commission believed that extending it indefinitely would give legal certainty for long-term supply as well as enhance local production of much-needed medicines.

“This exemption will give the least developed countries the necessary legal certainty to procure or to produce generic medicines,” the commissioner said.

The proposal will be possible submitted to WTO’s special Council on intellectual property in mid-October, after the 28 member states of the EU give their approvals.

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