MSF Welcomes Unprecedented Call For Access to Medicines; Urges the US and Other Governments To Follow Suit

European Parliament Demands that Drug Companies Drop Case Against South African Medicines Law

March 19, 2001, New York — In an unprecedented move, the European Parliament has passed an emergency resolution calling on the 39 drug companies suing the South African government to drop their lawsuit. The international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is thrilled by the European Parliament's unequivocal support for South Africa's attempts to make medicines accessible, and urges the Bush administration, and the leaders of other nations, including Canada, to issue immediately a similar statement supporting the South African government's right to use legal means to improve access to essential medicines.

"We are confident that the public outcry building against the pharmaceutical companies will drive them to withdraw their case," said Nicolas de Torrenté, executive director of the US office of MSF. "Treating people is more important than protecting patents. The European Parliament's resolution is groundbreaking. More and more political leaders are calling on these companies to drop their lawsuit, and yet the US government has been completely silent. It's time for the Bush administration to issue a clear statement of support for South Africa's right to affordable medicines to treat the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaging its population."

In an additional amendment, the European Parliament called for a review of the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), "to ensure that the rights of developing countries to obtain the cheapest possible life-saving medicines, whether patented or generic, are guaranteed." Today, MSF is issuing a call to the US and other governments to engage with the European Commission without delay about how best to revise TRIPS to provide the highest possible protection of public health.