On 21-22 June 2010 representatives of the government and civil society sectors in Ukraine, as well as media representatives convened in Hotel ‘Rus’ in Kiev, for a seminar entitled “Intellectual Property Rights and Access to Essential Medicines: Challenges and Opportunities in Free Trade Agreement Negotiations, Multilateral Instruments and National Laws”. Among them were officials of the EU FTA Negotiation Department and the WTO Cooperation Department of the Ukrainian Ministry of Economy, the Committee on HIV/AIDS and other Socially Dangerous Diseases and the State Pharmacological Center with the Ministry of Health, the National Intellectual Property Department, the IP Research Institute with the Academy of Legal Sciences, the National Renaissance Foundation, the Whole-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV, as well as national intellectual property and pharmaceutical journals. The meeting was organized by UNDP Country Office in Ukraine, through the Blue Ribbon Analytical and Advisory Centre and the HIV/AIDS Practice of UNDP’s Bureau for Development Policy. Resource persons included an international team of experts in the field of intellectual property rights and public health: Professor Carlos Correa from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentine, Dr. Johanna von Braun from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Dr. Mohammed El-Said from the Lancashire Law School, United Kingdom, and Tenu Avafia and Boyan Konstantinov from the HIV/AIDS Practice of UNDP BDP in New York.
The organizing of the seminar was in response to a request by the Ukrainian Ministry of Economy and the State Pharmacological Center. The objective was to support the development of a public-health oriented approach in national intellectual property rights protection legislation and practices in order to facilitate the access to essential antiretroviral medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS in Ukraine, which has the most severe and rapidly growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in Europe. The seminar was held with the aim of developing capacity on the implementation of Ukraine’s commitments with the UNGASS Declaration to secure universal access to ARV treatment for its citizens, as well as in the implementation of the health related Millennium Development Goals. The seminar discussed recent developments in Ukrainian intellectual property law and related legislation from a public health perspective. More specifically, it explored the opportunities for Ukraine to utilize the flexibilities under the WTO Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in order to foster access to affordable, good quality antiretroviral medicines. The meeting explored the implications of the WTO accession on Ukraine’s intellectual property regime and access to essential medicines, as well as the possible impact of the negotiations of free trade agreements on public health and opportunities to balance trade and public health interests in the negotiation process. The participants concluded that, while Ukraine has adopted numerous TRIPS-plus provisions during its accession to the WTO, it has retained important flexibilities such as compulsory licensing, government use orders and exceptions, which are consistent with the minimum requirements of the TRIPS Agreement. In order to address the need to urgently scale up access to antiretroviral treatment, Ukraine should look into opportunities to utilize these flexibilities to increase access to affordable antiretroviral medicines. The participants also agreed that there is a need to establish a multi-stakeholder dialogue, involving legislators and government officials, on the impact of intellectual property rights protection on public health and the application of a balanced policy approach (Press release UNDP Ukraine).
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