WTO allows broad grounds to copy patented medicines

Ian Swanson’s article, “PhRMA takes aim at Thailand for production of generics, hints that it will push for sanctions” (May 23), states, “World Trade Organization (WTO) rules do grant poor countries the right to issue compulsory licenses authorizing the production of generic drugs to deal with public health crises.” While this is true, it is important to note WTO rules do not limit compulsory licensing to public health crises or to poor countries.

Under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, countries are free to issue compulsory licenses on whatever grounds they choose (TRIPS Article 31). To remedy confusion about this point, the member countries of the WTO adopted the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. It specifically states, “Each member has the right to grant compulsory licences and the freedom to determine the grounds upon which such licences are granted (Paragraph 5(b)).” Government use or emergency circumstances such as public health crises simply allow members to bypass otherwise required procedures, such as negotiating with rights holders before issuing a license (TRIPS Article 31(b)).

On its Frequently Asked Questions page, the WTO calls the idea of an emergency requirement “a common misunderstanding.”

Also, the provisions of TRIPS Article 31 and Doha extend to all WTO “Members.” Indeed, rich countries routinely use compulsory licensing in a variety of contexts. The United States is likely the most frequent user of compulsory licensing.

~Peter Maybarduk and Robert Weissman of Essential Action, Washington

Cowards losing support

In his story “Blogosphere fury at Dems on Iraq vote” (May 30), Jonathan E. Kaplan asserts “[t]he power of the so-called netroots … is not clear.”

Mr. Kaplan — and congressional Democrats — might want to stay tuned: Even those of us who only read or rarely comment on left-wing blogs are furious that the Democrats Americans voted into majorities last November, because the voters wanted a change of direction, have turned out to be cowards who won’t stand up to defund Bush’s war in Iraq. We the People have remembered, albeit belatedly, that members of Congress are in Washington only as our representatives; when they cease to represent us, we can and will vote them out of office.

Toward that end, most of us have decided to contribute to no Democratic incumbents (nor to groups such as the DNC, DSCC or DCCC) until our troops are redeployed out of Iraq.

You see, unlike that anonymous “senior House Democratic aide” Mr. Kaplan quotes, we haven’t bought into the Republican spin that defunding the war means being “irresponsible with the lives of our troops.” We’re either old enough to remember, or intelligent enough to read up on, the last time Congress used one of its constitutional duties to defund an unpopular, futile war: The troops came home, alive if not necessarily psychically whole.

~From Sue Fomby, Goshen, Ky.

A revolting assessment

[Regarding “Blogosphere fury at Dems on Iraq vote,”] I am outraged at both the caving of Congress on ending the war and at the accusations by Democratic leaders that it’s only liberal nuts who — unreasonably — expected them to keep their promises and follow the mandate of the last election. [A Democratic aide’s claim in the story,] “No American troop will go without … just so the most liberal activists in the country can be quieted,” is just as big a lie as “mission accomplished” and twice as revolting because the new Congress has now joined the White House in trying to extract political gain for protecting the troops while actually sacrificing them. …

~From Stephanie Remington, Costa Mesa, Calif.