terça-feira, março 28, 2006
Comércio livre e antiretrovirais
Free Trade and AIDS Drugs
The countries of southern Africa have the world's highest rates of AIDS infection. These governments have a special need to make or buy low-cost generic drugs to save their citizens. World trade rules are amenable, containing safeguards that allow countries to use generics to preserve public health. But the Bush administration is now negotiating a free trade agreement with the Southern African Customs Union. It is important that the United States does not, in the process, restrict the ability of poor people to get generic drugs in these countries.
For many years, American trade policy on medicines has been a struggle between the drug companies, whose campaign contributions and lobbying expenses are second only to the insurance industry's, and the social imperative to provide developing nations cheaper and easier access to vital drugs. Most of the time, the pharmaceutical companies have won. Free trade agreements signed with Central America and other places, for example, restrict the use of generics by allowing brand-name companies to keep their clinical data a secret for five years. The Central American agreement also prevents anyone from registering a generic product without the patent holder's agreement during the life of a patent. The agreement with Morocco allows pharmaceutical companies to extend their monopolies by patenting new uses for old medicines.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton, under pressure from global health campaigners and developing countries, signed an executive order that barred Washington from asking sub-Saharan Africa to accept tighter restrictions on generics than the World Trade Organization requires. President Bush reaffirmed that decision when he came into office in 2001.
The trade representative's negotiator says that the subject has not yet come to the table, and that the United States, well aware that southern Africa faces unique health challenges, intends to respect the executive order. These are welcome words, and it is imperative that Washington be held to that promise.