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Couchepin defends patent protection

Pascal Couchepin said patent rights for pharmaceutical drugs had to be respected Keystone

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has defended Switzerland's pharmaceutical industry during a World Trade Organisation meeting in the gulf state of Qatar.

This content was published on November 10, 2001 - 16:04

Couchepin, who was speaking to 142 WTO delegates in Doha, said the protection of pharmaceutical patents was necessary to continue the fight against pandemic diseases such as aids, malaria or tuberculosis in developing countries.

The economics minister said health problems in those countries could only be solved if patents were respected. "Protecting pharmaceutical patents will encourage research and new therapies, which will meet the needs of industrialised and developing countries."

"We're determined that developing countries should have access to the appropriate medicine," Couchepin added. "However, we are firmly opposed to countries such as India and Brazil producing generic drugs despite existing patents."

"This should be reserved for emergency situations only," Couchepin concluded.

Trips

According to Couchepin, a solution respecting trade related intellectual property rights (TRIPs) would be pos0sible.

The TRIPs agreement of the WTO, which was signed in 1994, regulates intellectual property within commercial relations. It includes a compulsory patent procedure granting countries permission to produce generic drugs.

However, non-governmental organisations argued that by opposing more lenient rules, the industrialised world and the business community are putting profit before health.

Task forces

Couchepin was nominated to head one of six task forces, which will attempt to establish a number of compromises during the Doha conference. His group will examine how to put the 1994 Uruguay Round accords into effect.

The Uruguay Round took place in 1984 and was aimed at encouraging developing countries to join the WTO.

swissinfo with agencies

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