13 NGOs Call on USTR To Support Colombia in Special 301 Following Pressure Over Legal Access to Meds Efforts

KEI submitted a post-hearing submission to the USTR for the Special 301 on behalf of itself and twelve other international NGOs and academic institutions condemning recent pressures on Colombia’s legal and regulatory measures to increase access to affordable medicines, including pressure directly from the USTR as well as Special 301 submissions by PhRMA, BIO, NAM, and the Chamber of Commerce focusing particular attention on Colombia.

This submission is the first of two letters to be sent to USTR on this issue. The second letter, to be sent next week, will focus more on the specific threat by USTR to block Colombia’s accession to the OECD unless the country yields to the interests of the pharmaceutical and biotech lobby.

In addition to the well-chronicled price reduction of Glivec (imatinib) by Colombia’s Ministry of Health in 2016, the Ministry has recently been exploring the question of whether there are sufficient reasons meriting a declaration that a compulsory license on HCV medicines would be in the public interest. Both the Glivec case and the HCV request initiated with Colombian civil society, including Misión Salud, iFARMA, and REDLAM.

The attached letter from the 13 NGOs asks the United States trade officials to refrain from pressuring other countries with regard to compulsory licensing. Among other things, the letter enumerates the several statutory and judicial forms of compulsory licensing that are possible and used in the United States, and the notes the heated discussion within the United States over high drug prices.

The letter’s signees included:

    Health GAP
    Knowledge Ecology International
    Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières USA
    Oxfam America
    Public Citizen
    Alianza LAC-Global por el Acceso a Medicamentos
    Center of Medicines Information of the National University of Colombia
    The Colombia Bishop Conference
    Colombian Medical Federation
    Committee of Oversight and Cooperation in Health
    La Fundación IFARMA
    Medicines Observatory of Colombia (OBSERVAMED)
    Misión Salud

James Love, Director of KEI: “The United States uses compulsory licensing more than any other country, including but certainly not limited to medical technologies. If the United States wants to curb high drug prices while protecting access to medicines, it needs to have the ability to limit the exclusive rights in patents. If the United States does not embrace more robust compulsory licensing efforts, patients in the United States will face financial stress and limited access to new medicines. The same is true for Colombia and nearly every other country. PhRMA and its member companies want USTR to create global norms that will undermine costs controls and access everywhere, and that’s not what needs to be done.”

Misión Salud, Colombia: “We insist once again on the illegitimacy of the 301 report as an instrument to put pressure on the countries about the implementation of matters specific to the WTO forum. Regarding medicines, Colombia has not violated its commercial commitments and we believe that it should go further in the protection of public interests over private profit interests.
The United States must update its vision on current health challenges in the world and how they are aggravated by the current model of intellectual property.”

Brook Baker, Health GAP Senior Policy Analyst: “The bio/pharmaceutical industry’s persistent efforts to undermine and sanction Colombia’s lawful use of TRIPS compliant measures to issue compulsory licenses or to reduce monopoly-based pricing is immoral, unjust, and a violation of the industry’s own human rights obligations. The complicity of the US over the past two years in supporting Big Pharma’s efforts and making its own threats of retaliation against Colombia is equally egregious. The Special 301 process should no longer be used to parrot industry’s false claims and to prop up its destructive business model that extorts patients and payers here and abroad.”

Civil-Society-Letter-re-Special 301-Targeting-Colombia-March-14-2018