Cheap Medicines

International Development written question – answered on 1st November 2001.

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Photo of Mr Bill Tynan Mr Bill Tynan Labour, Hamilton South

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations (a) her Department made to the Department of Trade and Industry and (b) she will make to the WTO Summit on providing developing countries with access to cheap medicines.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

We work closely with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) among others on access to medicines. The UK Government are working with the European Union and others to ensure that the WTO's existing rules on intellectual property help developing countries gain access to medicine. This means making sure that new medicines are developed while at the same time allowing developing countries to take appropriate measures to protect public health in national emergencies.

Intellectual property rights need to be part of wider action to address the problems facing developing countries in developing effective healthcare to all their citizens. That is why the UK strongly supports the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and why the Prime Minister asked me to form a high level working group to report back by May 2002 on what else needs to be done. On 8 October, I chaired the first meeting of the high level working group on access to medicines, at which Government Ministers and officials—including representatives from DTI—met with a range of key stakeholders to look at ways of increasing research and development into the diseases of the poor.

The UK supports the development of a meaningful declaration on this issue at the Doha ministerial conference, which should affirm and clarify flexibilities within the TRIPS Agreement to allow developing countries to protect their public health needs.

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