241. The representative of the Secretariat informed Members about its recent technical cooperation activities that shed light on the broader context affecting procurement strategies to promote effective access to medicines. In July 2010, the WHO, WIPO and WTO had jointly organized a technical-level symposium on access to medicines, pricing and procurement practices. This symposium had aimed to promote understanding as to the experience of international and regional agencies in the pricing and procurement of medicines as an important determinant of access. It had provided an opportunity to discuss where to obtain information on access to medicines, their prices and availability, covering core questions on drug procurement, pricing and relevant intellectual property issues. Arising from technical level dialogue between the organizations, the activity had been planned to lay the groundwork for continuing dialogue among the collaborating organizations and their partners and the ongoing trilateral cooperation, which included the implementation of the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action. The event had heard the perspectives of the three Directors-General and from technical-level officials from the three Organizations, as well as representatives from global procurement agencies and NGO procurement initiatives, other active NGOs and several industry perspectives.
242. The WTO's technical-level contribution had been to set out an overview of the practical information available on trade-related measures that had a bearing on all aspects of the access equation. These included information on intellectual property policy settings, procurement and competition policies, tariffs and regulatory matters ensuring the quality, safety and efficacy of medicines. The aim had been to provide as complete a factual picture as possible. Hence the emphasis had been on strengthening the information base for practical cooperation on drug access and procurement questions. Director-General Pascal Lamy had commented that "global public health is a complex puzzle; getting it right is a teasing challenge, involving effective use of the full set of applicable policy tools, but it is also a practical craft, rather than a theoretical excursion meaning that we can and should learn from the actual experience of others in their efforts to create and disseminate needed treatments. The pooled perspective needs to cover the international trade dimension but also consider domestic policies and practices, and above all the evolving state of the actual global disease burden, a priority setting for front-line treatments and patents for the production and dissemination of medicines". He had expressed the hope that the programme of the technical symposium would help illuminate this far bigger picture so that each organization could complete its specific areas of work with the benefit of greater understanding about how all the elements interacted and what priority targets should be aimed at, a task that could only be undertaken by public health colleagues.
243. The symposium had not been intended as a policy forum and accordingly no conclusions or outcomes had been intended to emerge. However, the improved flow of data and the ideas for more effective use of diverse sources that had been explored during the symposium should allow for technical cooperation to be better designed and for a firmer empirical base for understanding access to medicines issues to be built. It was clear that, to progress the goal of access to medicines, strengthened cooperation and improved information resources from diverse resources would make a significant difference. The technical symposium had reviewed a number of available resources of information, covering prices, availability and quality of medicines, concerning patents and the scope of patent coverage, and a range of trade and intellectual property policy issues and measures available in various WTO notifications and databases.
244. Based on the Secretariat's practical experience with technical assistance in the field, the current trend had appeared to be to try to marry the understanding about legal options and legal mechanisms with the broader perspective of procurement strategies and an improved information base. For example, since patents were national and territorial in scope, effective procurement practices entailed understanding what relevant patents were in force and in what jurisdictions. Similarly, information about pricing trends was helpful both in understanding the existing state of play regarding access and in undertaking practical procurement activities. Information about the broader regulatory framework, including on tariffs, taxes, health regulation, competition policy, and intellectual property matters, helped to illuminate the operational context of procurement programmes, in turn enabling them to be more effective and to derive better health impact from available resources.