Unitaid Chair welcomes amendment to IP rules to ease access of poor countries to medicines

GENEVA, 26 January – Unitaid’s Chair Celso Amorim strongly welcomed an amendment to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on intellectual property rights that seeks to ease access by poorer WTO member countries to affordable generic medicines.

The number of WTO members which have ratified the amendment this week reached a two-thirds threshold needed to formally incorporate it into the agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The amendment empowers developing and least developed countries lacking sufficient domestic capacity to produce generic drugs to seek such medicines for their own use from third countries under compulsory licensing arrangements.

“This new and decisive step will be of great help in facilitating access to medicines for poor populations around the world, thus fulfilling one of the major objectives of the recent UN Secretary General's High Level Panel on the subject,” said Mr Amorim.

Mr Amorim was involved in several steps in the process culminating in the approval of the amendment, particularly with negotiations that led to the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health in 2001 and the talks that preceded the WTO General Council decision in 2003.

Unitaid, under the provisions of its constitution, supports the use by countries of compulsory licensing or other flexibilities consistent with TRIPS. Following the resolution adopted by UNITAID's Executive Board last December, a call for proposals in this area will be launched in the coming weeks.