The international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières fears that a new Presidential Decree will make it much more difficult to obtain affordable essential medicines in Ecuador.
This Decree will have a direct negative impact on the health of millions of Ecuadorians as it deliberately seeks to limit the availability of generic medicines.
MSF has been able to study the draft text of the Decree. It includes measures, such as "data exclusivity", which would effectively prevent the marketing of generic drugs in the country. It will even result in the withdrawal of generic medicines already being used by Ecuadorians.
The articles contained in this draft go far beyond the requirements of the World Trade Organization's TRIPS Agreement. They also breach the letter and the spirit of the WTO's Ministerial Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, known as the "Doha Declaration", and the 486 Decision of the Andean Community.
"If it signs this Decree, Ecuador will be adopting measures which no international treaty obligates it to do. The only purpose seems to be to protect the pharmaceutical multinationals from generic medicines, thereby endangering the health of the Ecuadorian people," says Marc Bosch, MSF Head of Mission in Ecuador. "Governments must defend their right - and obligation - to protect public health and guarantee access to essential medicines for their population."
At the IV Ministerial Conference of the WTO that took place on November 2001 in Doha, Qatar, all WTO members, including the US, unanimously adopted the Doha Declaration, which placed the protection of public health above the protection of intellectual property rights and, in particular, affirmed the right of countries to take measures when necessary to protect public health and promote access to medicines for all.
Yet in spite of this, the United States is seeking to hamper the availability of affordable generic medicines. This will spell catastrophe for MSF's patients and millions of people living with HIV/ADIS and other diseases in the region.
The US has sought to do this both through negotiations on free trade agreements with governments and through direct pressure on governments to pass decrees that prevent the marketing of generic medicines.
To guarantee the protection of public health and the promotion of universal access to medicines, MSF believes that intellectual property provisions should be left out of free trade agreements and that governments should refuse to sign laws on intellectual property that threaten the access of the population to generic medicines.
"As a medical humanitarian organization, we cannot accept the health needs of our patients and millions of others being subordinated to the commercial interests of the US and the multinational pharmaceutical companies," says Marc Bosch. "We call upon the Ecuadorian government not to give in to these pressures and to place the access to medicines of the Ecuadorian people above any other commercial interest."
MSF is an independent, international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to victims of armed conflicts, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters and to others who lack health care due to social or geographic marginalization in 78 countries throughout the world. MSF was awarded the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize.