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Patent or patient? How Washington uses trade deals to protect drugs

Author: Alan Beattie, Andrew Jack, Amy Kazmin, Financial Times, Published on: 22 August 2006

The "lives of hundreds of thousands of Thai citizens" would be put at risk if negotiators accepted Washington's demands for greater protection of drug companies' intellectual property rights, he [William Aldis, World Health Organization director in Thailand] wrote in an article for a Bangkok newspaper...By the end of March, Dr Aldis...was abruptly transferred sideways to a job in India, raising concerns in Thailand about US efforts to curb the independence of the WHO's public health professionals. The spat highlighted the tensions generated by a US drive to strengthen patent enforcement and intellectual property rights protection around the world - a campaign backed by some of the powerful drugs companies that produce Aids medicines but opposed by many public health specialists, patient groups and developing nations...On one side are those who argue that stronger patent protection will keep drug prices too high to meet the needs of developing-world patients. Pitted against them are others who insist innovation is under threat and the real problem in poor countries is a lack of hospital facilities and medical staff. Widely discussed at last week's world Aids conference in Toronto, the issue prompted a petition signed by Médecins sans Frontières, the doctors' aid organisation, and dozens of other groups calling for a moratorium on free- trade provisions that threaten access to treatments. In it they demand that governments "protect the public from the potential negative consequences of bilateral and regional trade agreements on public health". [refers to Cipla, Ranbaxy, Abbott Laboratories]

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Related companies: Abbott Laboratories Cipla Ranbaxy Laboratories