238. Australia welcomes the opportunity to discuss issues relating to access to medicines and health technologies for developing and least developed countries. The challenges faced by least developed countries in tackling disease and illness are vast and ongoing and access to medicines and health technologies is critical to helping to address those challenges.
239. Australia’s commitment to access to medicines at home and abroad is reflected by its positive contributions in this area. These include Australia’s AUD$30 million funding to support Product Development Partnerships, in particular partnerships which are in the later stages of product development and that have prospects of bringing new diagnostic tests and drugs to market to address tuberculosis and malaria; Australia’s award in 2016 of a further AUD$2 million in funding for the Tropical Disease Research Regional Collaboration Initiative; and Australia’s support of the WIPO Re:Search Project, which promotes research and development to address neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis in developing and least developed countries.
240. Underlying many of these contributions, and critical to improving health outcomes, is health and medical research and innovation and a key part of this is having in place effective and balanced intellectual property systems. Australia notes existing TRIPS flexibilities and welcomes, in particular, the recent entry into force of the TRIPS Protocol. Australia supports utilisation of TRIPS flexibilities to the extent possible and we are open to hearing Members’ experiences of utilising the TRIPS flexibilities.
241. More broadly, Australia’s view is that IP is only one factor of many that can affect access to medicines and a narrow focus on intellectual property can only be of limited value where it does not take into account the interplay of many other factors. As the High Level Panel acknowledges, there are a range of factors that can affect access to medicines, including under-resourced healthcare systems, workers and education, and regulatory barriers and insurance issues. In this regard, we note the cooperative efforts between the WTO, WIPO and the WHO, including their trilateral report on Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation.
242. In Australia's view, the response to the access to medicines issue requires a holistic approach cognisant of all relevant issues – not just intellectual property. We look forward to hearing other Members' views on this agenda item.