GENEVA (9 July 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, hailed the European Parliament’s rejection of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) as a step in the right direction in ensuring continued access to affordable and essential drugs and medication essential for the fulfilment of the right to health.
“ACTA’s defeat in Europe is a welcome blow to the flawed agreement that has failed to address numerous concerns related to access to medicines, such as unnecessary inclusion of patents and civil trademark infringements and unjustified stricter civil enforcement provisions that could impede access to generic medicines,” Mr Grover said.
The independent expert cautioned against “heightened enforcement standards, envisioned by agreements like ACTA, that would hinder the legitimate trade and transit of medicines and adversely affect the availability of, and access to, affordable generic medicines”. In his view, sufficient intellectual property enforcement standards are already in place due to the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
“Had ACTA come into force, it would have exposed third parties - producers of active pharmaceutical ingredients, distributors, retailers, NGOs and funders of health programmes – to the risk of liabilities for trademark or patent infringements,” the Special Rapporteur stressed.
Mr Grover pointed to on-going concerns about ACTA, namely lacking protection measures and judicial review, absent penalties for abusive litigation and baseless allegations, and failure to consider proportionality and the public interests in setting the remedy. In his 2009 report* on access to medicines and intellectual property rights to the UN General Assembly, the independent expert had already warned about lack of transparency and secrecy surrounding the negotiations on ACTA.
“It is encouraging that the public scrutiny led to ACTA’s setback by the elected democratic body,” the expert said. “I hope that other signatories to ACTA and countries negotiating similar trade agreements would consider implications of such agreements on their people’s right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and allow for more public scrutiny of the agreements fundamental to their health.”
In July 2011, the UN Human Rights Council requested the Special Rapporteur to study existing challenges with regard to access to medicines, ways to overcome them and good practices. He will present the study to the Council in June 2013.
The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to help States, and others, promote and protect the right to the highest attainable standard of health (right to health). Anand Grover (India) is co-founder and Director of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit and the Senior Counsel in India.
(*) Read the Special Rapporteur’s report on access to medicines and intellectual property rights: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G09/127/11/PDF/G0912711.pdf?OpenElement or
Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.aspx
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