Sunday, August 31, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

WTO okays deal on cheap drugs to poor nations

Geneva, August 30
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) today approved a deal to ensure that poor countries have access to cheap drugs to fight killer diseases, resolving a long-standing dispute, after developing countries, including India, decided to back it, a WTO spokesman said.

“Several minutes ago, the General Council took one of its most important decisions,” spokesman Keith Rockwell said.

The deal is designed to allow poor countries, which do not have their own pharmaceutical industries, to import cheaper ‘generic’ copies of patented medicines to fight epidemics of diseases such as AIDS and malaria.

WTO negotiators had appeared to reach a deal on Wednesday, when a compromise proposal emerged with backing from the USA, which had blocked earlier initiatives to boost access to generics for poorer countries.

But the talks ran into new obstacles yesterday, when the Philippines led a number of developing countries in voicing serious doubts over how the new rules might be interpreted once in place. The Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance — many of whose members specialise in cut-price generics — echoed some of the same misgivings, saying that the proposal “clearly represented the clout of the US pharma lobby and would have ensured one way or another that the poor paid more for generic medicines”. — AFP

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