On Monday October 5 I wrote you about Ecuador’s plans to expand access to medicines by issuing compulsory licenses, and about President Correa’s vision for intellectual property “as a mechanism for development for the people” (see my post at the bottom of this email for a reminder and an excerpt of President Correa’s comments). Compulsory licenses authorize generic competition with patented medicines, reducing costs and enabling more people to access treatment. Discussions on a compulsory licensing administrative framework are advancing in Quito. This is a critical moment in the discussion, and we would like to show President Correa he has the support of the access to medicines movement.
Essential Action is collecting signatures in support of President Correa’s vision, and reiterating the benefits of TRIPS-compliant compulsory licenses. See our letter below. If you would like to sign on, please send your organization’s name (or your name and organizational affiliation, if any, if you would like to sign on as an individual), your mailing address and email address to
Economista Rafael Correa Delgado
Presidente de la República
Dear President Correa,
We, organizations of civil society, treatment advocates, development advocates, people living with HIV, and access to medicines movements the world over, congratulate Ecuador on its courageous plans to grant compulsory licenses for medical patents.
Over the last ten years, competition of generic medicines with branded medicines has fueled a revolution in HIV/AIDS treatment. Competition has reduced costs of first-line antiretroviral therapy by over 98%, from $10,000 per person, per year to near $100 today. As a result, four million people worldwide now have access to life-saving drugs.
But monopoly drug pricing problems in developing countries extend far beyond first-line HIV/AIDS treatments. Many people living with HIV and AIDS are graduating to second and third-line treatments, many of which are patented and sold at high cost. Heart medicines, cancer medicines, medicines against opportunistic infections and more are also often sold at prices far beyond peoples’ ability to pay. High costs constrain the essential services public health programs could otherwise provide. Today, multinational pharmaceutical companies are intensifying their global registration of patents. We confront the deadly prospect of monopolized drug markets.
Compulsory licensing is, has been, and will be an essential safeguard of competition. Each country that uses this safeguard – enshrined in the World Trade Organizations’ TRIPS Agreement –makes it simpler for the next. As compulsory licenses open markets to competition, they also help generate the necessary economies of scale to further reduce costs, and incentivize the broader reach of generic medicines. While advancing access to medicines imperatives, compulsory licensing is compatible with ensuring reasonable compensation for patent holders and supporting medical innovation.
The example of Brazil is telling. Since 2001, Brazil has provided hundreds of thousands of people with HIV/AIDS treatment and saved more than US$1 billion through a combined approach of national production of medicines, imports of generics, negotiation and compulsory licensing.
As so eloquently stated in the Political Constitution of Ecuador, Article 363, in access to medicines, the interests of public health prevail over those of mere profit. Your recent remarks position Ecuador to advance the politics and principle of access to medicines for all, in Latin America and around the world.
We stand with you. Please count on our support as you pursue your vision of intellectual property as “a mechanism for development for the people.”