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Published on 22 October 2009

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EU slammed for double standards over generics

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The European Union have been criticised yet again of double standards by seizing generic drugs at European ports that were to be distributed in less economically developed countries.

In a new joint report by NGOs, Oxfam International and Health Action International (HAI),  they argue that the EU is contradicting global trade rules by putting the interests of pharmaceutical majors ahead of worldwide accessibility of essential medicines. Some of which were to treat HIV/AIDS, heart disease, schizophrenia and dementia, say the NGOs.

The last 17 shipments were as follows; 16 from India and one from China” five were bound for Peru, four for Colombia, two each for Ecuador and Mexico and one each for Brazil, Nigeria, Portugal and Spain.

The EU is now exerting pressure on developing nations to surrender their guaranteed rights to affordable generic medicines and is calling for intellectual property (IP) rules to be toughened under free trade deals (FTAs). NGOs say their plans will increase drug prices in these countries.

However, they add that, at the same time, Europe is trying to reduce domestic medicine prices, with 24 out of the Community’s 27 member states having already taken steps to implement drug price controls.

“The EU is guilty of double standards – one rule for the rich and another for the poor,” said Elise Ford, head of EU advocacy at Oxfam.

European policies are directly responsible for the rising costs of medicines in developing countries, which spend as much as 60% of their health budgets on medicines.

Moreover, millions of poor people in these countries have to pay for medicines out of their own pockets, so even a small price rise can make them unaffordable, she noted.

And according to Sophie Bloemen, projects officer at HAI Europe, “there is growing evidence that the EU’s trade agenda is causing severe damage to public health in developing countries.”



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