Smith Lends a Helping Hand to "Hands Off" Campaign

01 December 2010
 SNP MEP Alyn Smith has today thrown his weight behind Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF)"Hands off" campaign, which is fighting to ensure life-saving generic medicines remain available and affordable for the millions that rely on them.
During recent negotiations, it has been rumoured that the European Commission has proposed several measures that will inhibit the production of affordable generic medicines which are vital to millions, especially in the developing world. Firstly, a free trade agreement
(FTA) with India is likely to contain several provisions that threaten access to medicines, such as patent extension and data exclusivity. These provisions will delay the production and supply of generic medicines. Secondly, current EC customs regulations have led to 18 cases of detention of generic medicines in transit through Europe before reaching patients in developing countries, just between 2008 and 2009. Thirdly, the promotion of the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) is also seen as an attempt to prevent the production of affordable generic medicines.
MSF says that hidden clauses in the free trade agreement being negotiated between Europe and India will prevent the manufacture and distribution of crucial generic medicines produced in the country. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has echoed MSF's concerns, saying that if the trade deal does indeed include clauses governing the production of cheap generic medicines, the ramifications for public health could be serious.
Smith said:
"It is shocking that in the 21st century a person living with HIV in the developing world is facing a future in which the medicines they are totally reliant on will be all but unobtainable, except at great expense, meanwhile the price is going down and down for those living in
the rest of the world.
"The measures that are being discussed in these negotiations will seriously limit access to quality, essential medicines that save millions of lives in developing countries. More than 80% of the medicines MSF uses to treat AIDS victims are quality generics sourced from India. If the FTA with India goes to completion in December this year and includes clauses that do threaten the availability of these life-saving medicines, the repercussions for those suffering with what are eminently treatable diseases will be severe.
"Much of the problem is the secrecy that many of these negotiations are being conducted in. No one, MEPs included, is quite sure who is promising what or why. I have added my voice to that of fellow MEPs in calling for the Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht to put drafts of the agreements into the public domain, and have lodged a parliamentary
question asking for clarification on both the content of the negotiations and the possibility of greater transparency as they progress. Until this is delivered then rumours about the agreements will continue to persist, and those who rely on these drugs to live will
remain fearful of the future."