There is growing anger among numerous countries that the World Health Organization favors intellectual property rights over access to needed medicines in poor countries. This week, for instance, India and Thailand asked the WHO to end its involvement with IMPACT, the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce, which is accused of harboring conflicts of interest.
At issue are concerns that IMPACT’s actions, which include involvement in seizing counterfeit drugs shipped between countries, is partly a smokescreen for delaying shipment of legitimate, lower-cost generic drugs to poor nations. Developing nations view the seizurese as a way to bolster patent protection for brand-name drugmakers.
And so India, which has a large generics industry, and Thailand, which has rattled brand-name drugmakers with threats to issue compulsory licenses, introduced a resolution calling on the WHO to end its involvement with IMPACT, “which has not been approved by any governing body of WHO and that there are conflicts of interest in its composition.” They also want measures to ensure patent enforcement doesn’t restrict access to medicines.