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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 21:54 GMT
World deal for cheap drugs stalls
Baby asleep next to anti-Aids drugs in South Africa
The idea of allowing generic drugs was agreed last year
Talks to reach an international agreement to ensure developing countries can access essential medicines to treat people with the HIV/Aids virus and other serious conditions have broken down.

The talks, aimed at relaxing the rules on pharmaceutical patents, ended without agreement at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva on Friday.

The principle of allowing developing countries access to cheap versions of drugs still protected by copyright had been agreed at WTO talks a year ago.


The devil is in the detail, and this is indeed what we have found

Eduardo Perez Motta, talks chairman
But delegates from African countries at the talks said they were unhappy because the terms now being discussed are more narrow. The WTO has until the end of the month to secure a deal.

Experts have warned that unless a deal is struck in the coming weeks, many people will continue to miss out on vaccines and other life-saving medication.

Developing countries are demanding access to drugs to treat people with HIV or Aids as well as malaria, tuberculosis and other serious conditions.

Patent rules

Under the current rules, countries are required to respect patents for 20 years.

This prevents companies from developing similar drugs and selling them more cheaply.

Aids drugs
Aids drugs are too expensive for many governments

The WTO talks are aimed at relaxing the rules on intellectual property rights to enable countries in need to import cheaper versions of essential drugs.

In a statement, the chairman of the talks Eduardo Perez Motta of Mexico, said countries were still committed to striking a deal.

"While we all would have liked to have completed our work by now, it is in the nature of these types of exercises that it is difficult to reach a decision before the time available has been used to the full.

"The matter that we are dealing with is a complex one. Moreover, it is one which engages the interests of many sections of the societies that we represent."

He said everyone at the talks remained committed to resolving the problem by the end of the year.

"As I have always cautioned, the devil is in the detail, and this is indeed what we have found," Mr Perez Motta said.


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09 Nov 01 | Health
13 Nov 01 | Business
24 Nov 02 | Health
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08 Jul 02 | Africa
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