In 1995, the World Trade Organisation established the agreement on Trade related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that set the minimum standards for intellectual property protection in the world. TRIPS states that if you come up with a new invention you can patent it, so no-one can copy it for 20 years.
That’s a 20 year monopoly.
The idea is to protect the people who’ve invested in coming up with new ideas. That might sound reasonable but TRIPS applies to medicines too. And that means that if you come up with a life-saving HIV drug you can charge whatever price you like, as there’s no competition to bring the price down. This meant that when the first generation of HIV medicines were developed the initial costs were up to US$10,000 per patient per year, far more than any poor countries could afford.
People realised that the impact TRIPS was having on access to treatment around the world was grossly unfair, and moved to try and reduce the harmful effects – what they came up with became known as TRIPS flexibilities. One flexibility was to prolong the time at which the poorest countries would have to adopt these rules. Specifically extending the deadline that the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the world had to enforce TRIPS from 2006 to 2016. This deadline needs to be further extended now or they will face the same difficulties that other developing countries already contend with in accessing medicines.
Last November, Haiti on behalf of all the LDCs, submitted a request to the TRIPS Council that this deadline be extended until the point at which these countries cease to be LDCs. This request is being considered an upcoming meeting to be held from 5th – 6th March 2013. The problem is that some richer countries are opposing this request even though they are obliged to allow it.
That’s why we need your help.
We want you to write to your MPs and MEPs to ask them to ensure that the UK Government and European Commission do all in their power to protect access to medicines within the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) of the world. It couldn’t be easier.
1. Find links to template letters to send to your MP and MEPs, or write your own.
2. Find out who your MP is at www.theyworkforyou.com
3. You can find out who your MEPs are by region here (you have several MEPs!)
4. Email your MP and MEPs linking to this page so that they can download our parliamentary pack at the top, which includes a template letter for them to send to Ministers/Trade General and a full parliamentary briefing.
5. You can find some top tips for lobbying politicians in our activist guide here.