Minutes - TRIPS Council - View details of the intervention/statement

Ambassador Mero (United Republic of Tanzania)
World Health Organization (WHO)
11 Technical Cooperation and Capacity-Building
356. We welcome the opportunity to present WHO's activities on technical cooperation in the area of public health and intellectual property. In this intervention, we would like to highlight two areas of our work: fostering R&D into new antibiotics and increasing access to hepatitis C treatment. 357. On 14 October 2016, the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois announced that it was facing an outbreak of vancomycin-resistant enterococci bacteria. Vancomycin is one of the few antibiotics that is still effective at treating methicillin-resistant staphylococcus infections, which are both common and dangerous. The hospital quarantined affected patients and took infection-control measures, including shifting surgeries to other hospitals in the region, to prevent the transmission of the resistance genes to other more deadly bacteria that are already resistant to nearly every other antibiotic. 358. This is only one episode, but it illustrates the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance. The WHO has taken a leading role in combating the rise of such resistance, including on how to foster the development of new antibiotics. 359. Together with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, the WHO launched a new initiative known as the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership. This new joint venture aims to develop new antibiotic treatments, promote their responsible use and ensure equitable access of these antibiotics. In collaboration with WHO, it will identify R&D gaps and launch projects to fill those gaps. 360. Over €2 million of seed funding has been secured from the Governments of Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Switzerland, as well as from Médecins Sans Frontières. The Partnership will work closely with all global stakeholders in antibiotic R&D to develop new antibiotic treatments, including pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, start-ups, academia, civil society and health authorities. The aim is to have at least two projects that address urgent global health needs ready for implementation by the end of 2016 and two more by the end of 2017. 361. Trade law and intellectual property policies are part of the ongoing discussions about how to combat antimicrobial resistance. Last month, the WHO, WIPO and WTO held a joint, trilateral symposium on antimicrobial resistance. The goal was to highlight the importance of global cooperation in fostering innovation of new antibiotics, assuring access to needed antibiotics, and promoting antibiotic stewardship. 362. Let us turn now our attention to another area of work. When the new Direct Acting Antivirals (DAAs) were first approved for Hepatitis C treatment in 2013, there were widespread fears that their high price would put them out of reach for the more than 80 million people with chronic Hepatitis C infections worldwide. The new medicines have few side effects and can cure the disease for more than 90% of patients within three months. But at the initial high entry prices of, for example US$84,000 in the United States, the drugs were unaffordable even in many high-income countries. 363. Nonetheless, a new WHO report, the Global Report on Access to Hepatitis C Treatment: Focus on Overcoming Barriers, released in October 2016 shows how a range of low- and middle-income countries – including Brazil, Egypt, Georgia, Indonesia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Thailand and Ukraine – have been successful in getting drugs to people who need them using a series of access strategies supported by the WHO and other partners. 364. As the report documents, voluntary license agreements have allowed more than 100 countries to procure the new Hepatitis C drug from a range of generic providers. In addition, the non-filing or denial of patents based on patent oppositions filed by civil society have allowed for some local production. Egypt, for example, has driven down prices from an initially negotiated price of US$900 in 2014 to around US$170 for a three-month course of the new treatment today buying from local suppliers. 365. There are still huge differences between what countries are paying. Among middle-income countries which have no access to generic versions, the price for a three-month treatment of sofosbuvir and daclatasvir varies greatly. Costs range from US$9,400 in Brazil to US$79,900 in Romania. Some middle-income countries such as Brazil have opted for price negotiations. Using TRIPS flexibilities is another option and is described in more detail in the report. 366. High-income countries use various forms of price controls, but the study shows that those efforts have met with mixed success. High costs have led to treatment rationing in some countries, including in the European Union, where current pricing levels do not allow for treating the whole affected population. The new WHO Report that presents detailed information on prices of originator and generic treatment, where the different drugs are patented and where they are authorized for the market, will help create the market transparency needed to support country efforts to increase access to DAAs and will contribute to the implementation of the Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis that aims at eliminating hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. 367. I still have a couple of printed copies left and whoever leaves me his card, I would be happy to send over a PDF. You can also find the link to the report in our detailed report on our activities that is available as a WTO document.
The Council took note of the statements made and agreed to revert to the matter at its next meeting.
57. The Chairman recalled that, at its meeting in June 2016, the Council had agreed to hold its annual review of technical cooperation at this meeting. In preparation for this annual review, developed country Members had been once more requested to update information on their technical and financial cooperation activities relevant to the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement in time for this meeting. Other Members who also made available technical cooperation had been encouraged to share information on these activities. The Secretariat had issued on 7 July 2016 an Airgram (WTO/AIR/IP/9) reminding Members of this request. In addition, intergovernmental organizations observers to the Council as well as the WTO Secretariat had also been invited to provide information.

58. To date, the Council had received information from the following developed country Members: Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, the United States and New Zealand, circulated in document IP/C/W/617 and addenda. The report submitted by the European Union and individual member States, namely Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, had been made available as a room document on documents online and would also be circulated as an addendum to document IP/C/W/617. The Council had also received information on relevant technical cooperation activities from Mexico, circulated in document IP/C/W/615.

59. Updated information had been submitted by the following intergovernmental organizations: the FAO, UNCTAD, the OECD, the GCC, WHO, ARIPO, WCO and WIPO, circulated in document IP/C/W/614 and addenda. In addition, a report from UPOV had been received shortly before the meeting and would also be made available as an addendum to document IP/C/W/614. Updated information on the WTO Secretariat's own technical cooperation activities in the TRIPS area was available in document IP/C/W/618.

60. The Chairman said that these reports provided very valuable information both as regards details of specific activities, but also the broader policy considerations that were guiding capacity building activities of individual Members and Observers. Much of this resource remained largely untapped which might be due to the amount of information provided and the way in which this was done. In order to promote awareness and transparency, the Secretariat had repeatedly suggested that the information about specific activities be reported in table format. It had provided regular updates with respect to its work aimed at identifying ways of facilitating the submission, processing and circulation of information on technical assistance.

61. The representatives of Australia, Mexico, the United States and Colombia took the floor.

62. The representative of the Secretariat took the floor.

63. The representatives of ARIPO, the GCC, WHO and UNCTAD took the floor.

64. Since some of the information had been received only very recently, and most of it was available only in its original language, the Chairman said that he would provide Members an opportunity at the next meeting to make further comments on the information.

65. The Council took note of the statements made and agreed to revert to the matter at its next meeting.

IP/C/M/83, IP/C/M/83/Add.1