MSF Calls Upon Latin American Governments to Guarantee Access to Medicines

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, November 13, 2003 - As leaders convene at the XIII Iberoamerican Summit in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, the international medical humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls upon governments in the Americas to guarantee access to medicines for people across the continent.

MSF has asked governments in the region to exclude intellectual property provisions from the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement altogether. The XIII Iberoamerican Summit is an important forum for governments of the Americas to publicly express their commitment to the protection of public health.

The proposed FTAA agreement includes intellectual property provisions that would dramatically restrict access to lifesaving medicines in the Americas, as they will impose the most stringent intellectual property regimes in the world. "The draft intellectual property provisions included in the FTAA agreement contradict the spirit of the World Trade Organization's 2001 Doha Declaration that reaffirmed the right of countries to take measures to safeguard public health over commercial interests," says Javier Sancho, regional coordinator of the MSF campaign on FTAA.

MSF urges countries in the Americas to make full use of the flexibilities in the TRIPS agreement, reaffirmed in the Doha Declaration, particularly those that refer to the production or importation of generic medicines, parallel importation, and the right of countries to determine when to issue a compulsory license and what constitutes a national emergency.

"Restrictive regulations on intellectual property do not necessarily lead do research and development for new medicines," says Silvia Moriana, MSF Head of Mission in Bolivia. "There have been no new drugs for Chagas disease in Bolivia, for example, which means the many people with the disease have no effective treatment."

Through its international campaign, Medicines shouldn't be a luxury. Don't trade away with health in the FTAA!, MSF has developed intensive advocacy addressed at policy-makers and civil society groups in Latin America, the Caribbean, North America and Europe and diverse international organizations calling them to publicly support an "intellectual property out of FTAA" position. Last August 28th, MSF launched an international petition, which has gathered the support of tens of thousands of individuals and organizations all over the world.