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Anti-counterfeiting rules will limit access to safe drugs; Oxfam

By Nick Taylor , 02-Feb-2011

The EU and US are using substandard medicines as an excuse to tighten IP rules, boosting pharma profits while making it harder for the poor to access drugs, according to Oxfam.

Focusing on fighting counterfeits through expansion of intellectual property (IP) fails to address the public health threat of substandard and falsified drugs, says Oxfam. Worse, the measures, such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), will limit access to generic medicines.

[The US and European Union] have used the crisis in medicine quality in developing countries as an excuse to push for new IP rules that will boost the profits of pharmaceutical giants at the expense of affordable medicines for the poor”, said Rohit Malpani, Oxfam senior policy adviser.

Concerns surround “expansive definitions of ‘counterfeit’” which could, according to Oxfam, include substandard and legitimate generic products. Seizure of generic shipments in Europe emphasized the concerns, although in December it appeared the dispute had been resolved .

Similar accusations have previously been leveled at ACTA , the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) and Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Taking action

Oxfam calls on developed countries, developing nations, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the pharmaceutical industry to take action to ensure supply of quality, effective medicines.

For instance, pharma should recognise the public health threat posed by IMPACT, while the developed world should support initiatives to improve quality assurance in low-income countries.

These developing countries should prioritise expansion of public health infrastructure, says Oxfam. Also, Malpani said: “It is critical that poor countries ignore rich-country pressure, and focus instead on solutions that will ensure both quality and affordability of medicines.”

Oxfam released the Eye on the Ball report at the Sixth Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy which is being held in Paris, France today. The congress is hosted by France’s National Industrial Property Institute (INPI) and Interpol is also involved.

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