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Developing countries are not making the most of TRIPS flexibilities because of political pressure

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d7706 (Published 02 December 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7706
  1. Rachel Marusak Hermann
  1. 1Geneva

The flexibility given to developing countries to provide medicines more cheaply to those in need is not being exploited to its full capacity, a legal expert on public health has said.

While the Declaration on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Public Health, signed in Doha in 2001, reinforced several types of flexibilities to boost access to medicines, developing countries are not taking full advantage of them, Frederick Abbott, professor of international law at Florida State University College of Law, told the BMJ.

He gave an interview to the BMJ at the 5th High-Level Symposium on Global Health Diplomacy, which was held on 23 November at the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

Professor Abbott, who was also a symposium panellist, said that only one country, for example, had used the flexible import-export mechanism allowed under the TRIPS agreement. Rwanda had used it to import a generic fixed dose combination antiretroviral drug from a Canadian company under compulsory licence.

Limited implementation of TRIPS flexibilities was caused by various factors, he said, but one of the greatest challenges that developing countries face is political pressure, increasingly manifested in bilateral and regional agreements that restrict flexibilities.

“Developing countries have found that if they attempt to issue government use or compulsory licences, even on AIDS medicines, they come under intense political pressure, from the home country of the originator …

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