NGO's Oppose Pharmaceutical Suit

39 NGOs Denounce 39 Pharmaceutical Transnationals' Legal Action Against the South African Government and the Complaint Against Brazil Lodged by the USA with WTO

We have pleasure in sending you a petition entitled "Affirming the primacy of the right to life over the exorbitant profits made by the pharmaceutical transnational corporations." It is signed by 39 NGOs with consultative status at the United Nations.

Alarmed by the attitude of the pharmaceutical transnationals, particularly
with regard to those suffering from AIDS, the signatories to this text ask
the Commission on Human Rights to adopt, at its 57th session, a resolution
declaring that fundamental human rights, particularly the right to life,
rank over the right of intellectual property.


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Affirming the primacy of the right to life over the exorbitant profits made by the pharmaceutical transnational corporations

On 1 February 2001, the United States of America lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization against Brazil because this South American country passed a law in 1996 that permits the manufacture of generic medicaments, among them those destined to combat AIDS, at considerably lower prices than those charged by the transnational pharmaceutical companies. Thus the poor sectors of the population can have access to these medicaments.

At the same time, on 5 March 2001, 39 large transnational pharmaceutical companies began legal action in Pretoria against a South African law which grants the use of generic medicaments, particularly those used against AIDS.

The legal proceedings taken by the United States and the pharmaceutical transnationals against the Brazilian and South Africa laws, claim property rights of the medicaments in question as owners of the patents -- in accordance with their interpretation of the TRIPS agreement under the World Trade Organization.

One of the arguments used for giving priority to the protection of patents is that it motivates the enterprises to invest in research. But in considering this, four important factors must be taken into account:

  1. A good part of the investments in research comes from the State, (that is from the citizens' payments of taxes) with the laboratories spending more on advertising than on research.

  2. The investments in research and development are very quickly recovered through the commercialization of the medicaments and the benefits derived from them.

  3. The scientific discoveries from which the pharmaceutical companies benefit are the fruit of the labour of scientists and technicians which is part of a historical process of accumulation of collective knowledge.

The central question is to know whether the right of intellectual property can predominate over human rights, and particularly over the fundamental right to life, of a large part of the African population which is decimated by AIDS. It must be remembered also that there are other concerned populations on other continents.

Some large laboratories have promised to lower the prices of medicaments used in the treatment of AIDS in African countries. But until today, they have not kept their promise and are quite obviously resisting the competition represented by selling these medicaments at a lower price.

Thus, the Laboratory Pfizer has preferred to put a medicament, fluconazole, free of charge at the disposal of South African patients, rather than accept the competition concerning the same product, of Thai origin, which is 15 times cheaper.

In July 2000, during a special meeting, the UN Security Council declared that AIDS constitutes a menace for peace and security in Africa. To be consistent, the Security Council should adopt a resolution, binding on all States, that declares the medicaments destined to combat AIDS as 'common heritage'.

The signatories to this text ask the Commission on Human Rights to adopt at its 57th session a resolution declaring that fundamental human rights, particularly the right to life, ranks over the right of intellectual property and demanding forthwith that the United States of America withdraw its complaint lodged with the WTO against Brazil, and that the 39 pharmaceutical transnationals renounce their legal process against South Africa.

List of Signatories

  1. Alliance Universelle des Unions Chrtiennes de Jeunes Gens (UCJG)

    World Alliance of Young Men's Christian Associations (YMCA)

  2. Association Amricaine de Juristes (AAJ)

    American Association of Jurists (AAJ)

  3. Association Internationale Contre la Torture

    International Association Against Torture

  4. Centre Europe-Tiers Monde (CETIM)

    Europe-Third World Center

  5. Centro de Estudios Europeos

  6. Centro de Estudios Sobre la Juventud

  7. Confdration Mondiale du Travail (CMT)

    World Confederation of Labour

  8. Conseil International des Femmes

    International Council of Women

  9. Conseil International de Traits Indiens

    International Indian Treaty Council

  10. Conseil Mondial de la Paix

    World Peace Council

  11. Consejo Indio de Sud America (CISA)

    Indian Council of South America

  12. Fdration des Associations pour la Dfense et la Promotion des Droits de l'Homme

    Federacion de Associacones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos

  13. Fdration des femmes Cubaines

    Federation of Cuban Women

  14. Fdration Dmocratique Internationale des Femmes (FDIF)

    Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF)

  15. Fdration Gnrale des Femmes Arabes

    General Arab Women Federation

  16. Fdration Internationale des Femmes des Carrires Juridiques

    International Federation of Women in Legal Careers

  17. Fdration Internationale des Mouvement d'Adultes Ruraux Catholiques (FIMARC)

    International Fedration of Rural Adult Catholic Movements

  18. Fdration Latino-Amricaine des Associations des Familles des dtenus disparus (FEDEFAM)

    Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees

  19. Fdration Mondiale des Femmes des Eglises Methodistes et Unies

    World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women

  20. Fdration Mondiale de la Jeunesse Dmocratique (FMJD)

    World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY)

  21. Franciscain International

    Franciscans International

  22. International Educational Development

  23. Interfaith International

  24. Jeunesse Etudiante Catholique Internationale

    International Young Catholic Students

  25. Ligue internationale des femmes pour la paix et la libert (LIFPL)

    Women's international League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

  26. Ligue internationale pour les droits et la libration des peuples (LIDLIP)

    International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples

  27. Movimento cubano por la Paz y la soberania de los Pueblos

  28. Mouvement contre le Racisme et l'Amiti entre les Peuples (MRAP)

    Movement against racism and for friendship among peoples

  29. Mouvement Indien "Tupaj Amaru"

    Indian Movement"Tupaj Amaru"

  30. Mouvement international des Etudiants Catholiques

    International Movement of Catholic Students

  31. Mouvement Mondial des Mres

    World Movement of Mothers

  32. Nord-Sud XXI

    North South XXI

  33. Organisation de Solidarit des Peuples d'Afrique,d'Asie et d'Amrique Latine (OSPAAL)

    Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAL)

  34. Organisation tunisienne des jeunes mdecins sans frontires

  35. Pax Romana

  36. Secrtariat International du Mouvement 12 Dcembre

    December Twelfth Movement International Secretariat

  37. Union des Juristes Arabes

    Union of Arab Jurists

  38. Union Mondiale des organisations fminines Catholiques (UMOFC)

    World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations (WUCWO)

  39. Union Nationale des Juristes de Cuba

    Unin Nacional de Juristas de Cuba

AMP Section Name:Trade Justice
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