France swipes at US anti-HIV drugs 'blackmail'

13th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

BANGKOK, July 13 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac made a veiled attack on America at the International AIDS Conference here Tuesday, saying US demands on bilateral trade eroded a vital international deal to provide cheap HIV drugs to developing nations.

BANGKOK, July 13 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac made a veiled attack on America at the International AIDS Conference here Tuesday, saying US demands on bilateral trade eroded a vital international deal to provide cheap HIV drugs to developing nations.

Chirac called on countries to implement a multilateral trade accord that lets poor, AIDS-ravaged nations bypass international patent obligations, thus enabling them to buy cheap copycat "generic" drugs without fear of reprisal.

In an address read on his behalf by French Cooperation and Development Minister Xavier Darcos, Chirac said: "Making certain countries drop these measures in the framework of bilateral trade negotiations would be tantamount to blackmail."

The risk, he said, was that countries would be forced to buy expensive patented drugs, leaving innumerable HIV-infected citizens on the sidelines.

"What is the point of starting treatment without any guarantee of having quality and affordable drugs in the long term?" Chirac asked.

The comments were warmly applauded by delegates to the 15th International AIDS Conference, a six-day forum that opened here on Sunday under the theme "Access for All".

US trade deals with Chile, Jordan and Singapore include provisions for beefing up protection for patented, brand-name drugs.

The 2001 pact, reached among the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Doha, broke the grip of pharmaceutical giants on anti-HIV drugs.

It has helped drive down the cost of frontline treatments from between USD 10,000 - USD12,000 per person per year to as little as USD 140.

"Big Pharma" had fought hard against the deal, describing generics makers as counterfeiters whose activities sapped the profit motive that drove innovative lab research.

In other comments, Chirac said that financing for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which began its operations only last year, should be made durable.

Its resources should be raised to USD 3 billion a year, "by sharing this effort among Europe, the United States and all the other donors," he said, without mentioning figures.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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