Kenya: Activists tell the European Union: Keep Your Hands Off Our Medicines!

Posted on December 9, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Nairobi, Dec 9 – Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and hundreds of HIV advocates, patients and civil society organizations march today to the European Union House to protest against dangerous trade agreements being negotiated by the European Union (EU) that will threaten access to generic HIV medications.

Generic HIV medications have been a mainstay of the Kenyan HIV response and have allowed nearly 400,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya to receive lifesaving treatment, thus decreasing their morbidity and mortality and improving their health. But this is now under threat.  “For our patients, treatment is the most important tool we have,” said Ali Ouattara, medical coordinator for MSF projects in Kenya, “And the EU is trying to take this crucial tool away – they are protecting pharmaceutical profits at the expense of the lives of our patients and millions more around the world.”

The is currently EU is pushing trade agreements, including the EU-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that will dramatically reduce access to life-saving generic medications, including HIV drugs. Despite mounting evidence that scaling up treatment is vital to turning back the tide of the global HIV pandemic, the EU is now pushing policies that will make medicines more affordable, and risk making scale-up impossible.   

India is the provider of 80% of donor-funded generic HIV medications and has been called the ‘pharmacy of the developing world.’ According to the World Trade Organization’s TRIPS Agreement, originator drug companies may already apply for 20-year patents in India. However, the EU-India FTA goes beyond that and includes dangerous provisions including data exclusivity that would extend monopolies on medicines and would delay production of affordable, quality generic versions for up to a decade.

This is especially dangerous for new drugs that may be needed for patients who develop resistance or as part of future first-line regimens when better-tolerated HIV medications are developed.  “When I needed to change my HIV regimen, new drugs that were better for me were there and so, I am alive,” said Marble Anyango, MSF PATIENT, “I’m marching today because if this trade agreement is adopted, in the near future, we won’t be able to access new medications. A person living with HIV cannot wait 20-30 years for the medications.”

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