World Trade Organization officials on Monday at the WTO headquarters in Geneva began meeting to work out a compromise on access to medicines that would maintain patent protection for drug companies while broadening access for developing nations on medicines, such as HIV antiretroviral drugs. WTO ministers met in Sydney earlier in November and were unable to reach a "definitive agreement" on how to implement a declaration approved in November 2001 by a WTO ministerial working group that states that developing nations can override patent protections to manufacture medicines during public health emergencies.
The WTO ministers are ironing out such details as whether only the least-developed nations should have access to generic medications and whether wealthier developing countries like South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan should have to stick to international patent rules. WTO officials also are working to determine whether drugs to treat other ailments, like cancer and diabetes, should be included in the agreement. The organization hopes to have a plan in place by the end of the year.