Geneva, Switzerland (BBN)– The World Trade Organization (WTO) has decided to extend drug patent exemption for its least-developed country (LDC) members until 2033.
The decision was taken by the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) meeting on November 6, according to an official announcement.
The Council’s decision extends until January 2033 the period during which key provisions of the WTO’s intellectual property agreement, the TRIPS Agreement, do not apply to pharmaceutical products in LDCs.
This means LDCs can choose whether or not to protect pharmaceutical patents and clinical trial data before 2033. The decision also keeps open the option for further extensions beyond that date.
The latest extension, the second specifically applied to pharmaceutical products for LDCs, is in line with directions set by WTO ministers in the 2001 Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.
It also follows the adoption of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which affirm the right of developing countries to utilize TRIPS Agreement flexibilities to ensure access to medicines for all.
Ambassador Shameem Ahsan of Bangladesh, coordinator of the LDC group in the WTO, described the decision as “historic,” adding that it “will assure the LDCs the necessary legal certainty to procure or to produce generic medicines for those who need it most but do not have any access.”