Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lamy Speech to IFPMA - Public Health is a Trade Issue

This week, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) praised efforts to improve access to medicines in developing countries, in his address to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).

The Director-General, Pascal Lamy, delivered a keynote speech to the 23rd Meeting of IFPMA in Geneva, Wednesday night, in which he said "trade can work to improve health conditions which we know is essential to economic and social development."

A couple of months ago, IFPMA took part in a Geneva Forum, "Towards Global Access to Health," although the IFPMA participation was concerned largely with counterfeits as a health threat. Others may argue that this is more an issue of the "trade threat," and one which has been used strategically to control the entry of less expensive imports into certain markets.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a counterfeit drug as a one which is "deliberately and fraudulently mislabeled with respect to identity and/or source." However, consumer groups and other civil society actors have raised concerns that industry is using the "menace" of counterfeit drugs as a means by which to hinder the import of cheaper medicines. For instance, in the Philippines, Republic Act 8203 has been criticised for codifying such obstacles in response to intense lobbying. Recently, attorney Elpidio Peria has recommended amending the law to remove the clause, "an unregistered imported drug product," from the definition of counterfeit drug in the law.

Recognising the problem of the variable definition of counterfeit drug, WHO recommends a uniform definition of counterfeit drug as an essential part of effective exchange of information on these issues as well as appropriate and meaningful responses to public health.

No comments: