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Petition Against Expensive HIV Medicines

by Redaktie in Health & Body , 17 August 2015

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

The Aids Fonds and Doctors Without Borders have called on the Dutch Lower House to put the international patent system on the agenda during the Dutch chairmanship of the EU in 2016. They did so by presenting the petition ‘Geen medicijnen is doodzonde’ (No medication is a Mortal Sin) to the Lower House.

The petition was presented by Ton Coenen, the Executive Director of the Aids Fonds, and Katrien Coppens, Deputy Director of Doctors Without Borders. Because of patent agreement between national governments and pharmaceutical companies, the market prizes of HIV inhibitors are kept at an unnecessary high level. This threatens the access to lifesaving medication for millions of people with HIV in low and middle income countries.

Instead of protecting its own pharmaceutical industry, the European Union should give the lives of people with HIV priority, according to the Aids Fonds and Doctors Without Borders. The petition has now been signed by more than 8,700 Dutch people, and is supported by over thirty national and international organisations, including UNAIDS.

“The Netherlands are perceived to be a pioneer when it comes to the international fight against AIDS. We ask the Lower House to proudly propagate this progressiveness during the Dutch chairmanship of the EU. The pursuit of profit should never outweigh human lives”, Ton Coenen says.

EU Protects Own Pharmaceuticals

Patents give pharmaceuticals the right to exclusively market their products on the long term, against prices determined by them. This leads to high prices that can continue for a twenty year period.

Exceptions were made for low income countries. Thanks to international treaties, they do not have to recognise patents on medicine. The non-brand (generic) medicines that are sold and produced there are just as effective, but considerably cheaper. The price of a treatment with HIV inhibitors, for instance, dropped from 7,500 Euros a year in 2001 to 60 Euros a year now.

This exception is not made for middle income countries: they have to negotiate with pharmaceuticals about the price of HIV inhibitors. They are often pressured by Western governments trying to protect their own pharmaceuticals, just as the EU is doing.

“With disastrous consequences: dangerously high prices, shortages in local government budgets and hundreds of thousands of people with HIV that have to pay the price with their lives,” Ton Coppens says.

According to the Aids Fonds and Doctors Without Borders, the EU should be aiming for fair trade agreements in which affordable HIV inhibitors and broad access to HIV medication gets priority over the profit of European pharmaceuticals.

Also, the EU should give legal advice to low and middle income countries in making patent agreements with pharmaceuticals. This is possible in practise and very effective. The Aids Fonds supports the representatives and governments of countries in which access to HIV inhibitors is under threat, and Doctors Without Borders started a knowledge base to help patient organisations to help fight unjustified patent applications.

The EU could also aim for real innovation in the pharmaceutical industries without depending on profit from the sales of lifesaving medication.

No Medication is a Mortal Sin

The petition ‘Geen medicijnen is doodzonde’ is part of the Aids Fonds campaign with the same name that wants to draw attention to the limited access to HIV medication in large parts of the world.


In our youngest issue, Gay News 344, April/ May/ June 2020


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