Hopefully you will already know about the vital High Level Meeting that’s scheduled at the UN this September 26th (the HLM that’s intending to hike TB much higher on the international agenda which will be of specific benefit for the world’s poor).
Well, a very recent development really doesn’t make this very likely. And nor does it make for pretty reading if you're an American citizen.
U.N. member countries are currently in the process of negotiating the final declaration text for the Meeting, and it’s emerged that (astonishingly) significant pressure is being made on poorer countries to drop any references to protecting these countries’ rights to take fully-legal actions to access affordable medicines for their people.
Please be in no doubt: this cuts right across the very purpose of the HLM.
The nearly two-month long negotiations are winding up in New York this weekend, and one of the final sticking points is centred on the language that is to be included on public health safeguards that are enshrined in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). These allow governments, among other things, to issue ‘compulsory licenses’ to override patents in the interest of public health, and in doing so allow generic versions of drugs to be produced or imported meaning that more of their people can receive essential treatment.
Please be in no doubt: with MDR-TB this inclusion within the Declaration is an absolute necessity.
Please also note that the issue of affordability of medicine and this use of TRIPS flexibilities to facilitate this has previously been agreed upon in multiple international fora, most particularly in the existing UN High-level Declaration on anti-microbial resistance (AMR). MDR-TB is currently the most lethal of these AMR diseases, and the only one that is infectious by being airborne. What also distinguishes it is that above all else it stalks the poor.
MSF are up in arms about what's happening in New York (and rightly so).
Sharonann Lynch, HIV and TB Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign demands:
“How is it possible that global leaders will gather for the first time to decide how to tackle the world’s most deadly infectious disease killer, and yet some countries backed by their big pharma lobbies are pushing to remove any mention of the need for vital medicines to be affordable?”
She adds that: “Drug-resistant-TB is a public health emergency, so clearly the world is going to need to kick the response to this disease into high gear if we want to stop senseless deaths. Blocking more affordable generic versions of safer oral medicines needed to scale up treatments for people with DR-TB will not be the way to do it.”
Talks on the TB Declaration were supposed to have been wrapped up by Friday but apparently they’re continuing without resolution.
So who’s behind this pressure on the poorer nations - the ones who suffer most from this disease?? Here’s what the MSF statement says on the matter, pulling no punches:
The U.S. is exerting extreme pressure on other negotiators by refusing to sign the declaration at the U.N. General Assembly in September if language such as paragraph (PP19) that “recognizes the importance of affordable medicines” and “urges countries to enforce intellectual property rules in ways that promote access" is included.
The ‘Group of 77’ bloc of developing countries is under pressure to drop all references to the WTO’s 2001 Doha Declaration that enshrined public health flexibilities and safeguards in the TRIPS agreement.
We are adding our voice to MSF’s, and we ask that you do the same. This prioritising of the interests of one of the world’s most profitable industries is shameful, and it is being done at the expense of the world’s poor,- - men women and children who will pay dearly if the U.S mission is allowed to its guns.
If you are a U.S. citizen, PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY BY EMAIL TO YOUR MSSION AT THE U.N. and demand that they change their tactic.
This is urgent and is deadly serious so please do it now. The negotiations on the text are expected to be finished by Monday, after which the declaration text will not be re-opened.