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WTO Extends Drug Patent Exemptions for Least Developed Countries

On 6 November 2015 the World Trade Organisation (WTO) TRIPS Council agreed to extend a waiver already in place in favour of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) which exempts them from having to implement provisions of the TRIPS Agreement which require the protection of pharmaceutical patents.

With the previously agreed upon deadline of 1 January 2016 fast approaching, the extension gives LDC’s a further 17 years before they need to fully comply with provisions in TRIPS dealing with pharmaceutical patents. This extends the deadline to 2033, but the agreement also leaves room for further extensions to be made in the future.

Granting the extension is seen as being in line with both the Doha Declaration and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2001 Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health affirmed the right of members of the WTO to make use of the flexibilities built into the TRIPS Agreement to enhance public health in LDC's.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015. Goal 3 of the SDGs was developed to ensure healthy living and promotion of well-being for all at all ages, which includes, but is not limited to achieving universal health coverage, including access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

The coordinator of the LDC group noted that the decision to extend the waiver would give the LDCs the “necessary legal certainty to procure or to produce generic medicines for those who need it most but do not have any access.”

For more information contact Philippa Dewey

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