While the policies of the EU regarding access to medicines in less developed countries are commendable, in practice they are contradicted by its trade agenda. This seeks to maximize revenue to EU business interests and economies – a double standard exists. Recent trade agreements between EU and African states have even attempted to impose what have been called “TRIPS Plus” conditions, i.e. even stricter conditions than in the original trade agreement such as the acceptance of longer patent periods than normal, thus delaying access to affordable generic versions of drugs even more in African countries.
According to Medicines Sans Frontiers and Oxfam “EU trade policies consistently threaten access to affordable essential medicines by seeking to entrench overreaching intellectual property rules”.
In 2010 the Africa Faith and Justice Network, (AEFJN) of which the SMA is a member, has focused on highlighting the harmful contradiction between EU policy and practice in order to encourage a de facto acceptance of the view that the human right to health takes precedence over Intellectual Property Rights and the profits of pharmaceutical companies.
Obstacles, such as trade agreement conditions requiring the universal adoption of the patent system, should not be put in the path of developing countries who wish to protect the public health of their citizens by importing cheaper generic versions of medicines.
Another unjust double standard evident in developed producer countries is the fact that drugs made for export are not required to reach the same government regulated quality standards as medicines produced for domestic consumption. As a result many medicines available in Africa are substandard. EU policy places the onus on importing countries to ensure the quality of the drugs they import. The reality is that most developing countries do not have the means to check the standards of all the drugs they must import. In justice, EU Governments should ensure that drugs produced for export and for domestic consumption be of the same quality.