PIJIP Calls for USTR Policy Change to Promote Access to Medicines

On March 3, 2010, the U.S. Trade Representative will Hold First Open Hearing as Part of Its Annual Special 301 Review of Intellectual Property Policies


March 1, 2010


Sean Flynn, American University;

202-294-5749 | sflynn@wcl.american.edu
Mike Palmedo, American University
571-289-3683 | mpalmedo@wcl.american.edu
Malini Aisola, Knowledge Ecology International

202-332-2670 | malini.aisola@keionline.org

PIJIP will represent public health advocates before the US Trade Representative (USTR)“Special 301 Subcommittee” on Wednesday to criticize the use of trade policy to block generic competition in international and domestic pharmaceutical markets.  USTR’s promotion of ever-higher levels of patent protection on needed medicines leads to unreasonably high drug prices that limit access to medicines for many around the world. 

Sean Flynn, PIJIP’s Associate Director, explained:

Global health organizations will call on the Administration to stop using Special 301 to sanction countries for refusing to raise prices on medicines in excess of that required by the 1994 World Trade Organization Agreement.

USTR’s past policy of using the Special 301 Report to promote maximalist patent rights on medicines violates the 2001 U.S. commitment in the WTO to promote access to medicines for all. Public Health organizations will call on the Obama Administration to abide by that commitment.

Some of the groups that will testify include Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, Public Citizen, Knowledge Ecology International, Health GAP, the Lawyers Collective (from India), the AIDS Access Foundation (from Thailand), the Forum on Democracy and Trade, the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, and American University’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property.  Speakers representing industry groups and foreign governments will also testify at the hearing. 

Many groups testifying worked together to craft a joint written statement which was submitted to USTR in February.  It is available online here: wcl.american.edu/pijip/go/ngos02182010

Background on the Special 301 Process

The US Trade Act requires USTR prepare an annual report to Congress that lists countries which “deny adequate or effective” protection of intellectual property rights, or which discriminate against US companies that rely on intellectual property protection.  In preparing the report, USTR must solicit input from “interested persons.”  In the past, most input has come from companies or industry groups representing intellectual property owners, resulting in annual “Special 301 Reports” that largely reflect the industries’ desire for ever-higher levels of intellectual property protection. This year, USTR will hold open hearings for the first time as part of its process for preparing the report.  Also, this year there has been far greater participation by health, consumer, and digital right groups – hundreds of which submitted written comments to USTR in February.  All of the comments received by USTR for the 2010 Special 301 review are available online at regulations.gov. (When prompted by the site to enter a Keyword, enter “ustr-2010-0003” to view the comments.)