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WTO amendment helps access to affordable medicines for developing countries

January 24, 2017

An amendment to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) agreement on intellectual property entered into force on January 23, 2017 securing a legal pathway for developing countries to access affordable medicines under WTO rules.

The amendment to the WTO Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement marks the first time since the organization opened its doors in 1995 that WTO accords have been amended.

The amendment provides a secure and sustained legal basis for both potential exporters and importers to adopt legislation and establish the means needed to allow countries with limited or no production capacity to import affordable generics from countries where pharmaceuticals are patented.

Canada's Minister of International Trade François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement that "Canada is pleased that this WTO amendment is now in force. It supports the export of generic versions of patented drugs to developing countries that lack the capacity to manufacture needed medicines themselves. Millions of people continue to suffer from treatable conditions such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS, as well as other epidemics, because they cannot access life-saving drugs. This WTO amendment provides countries with another tool to improve access to affordable medicines for those who need it most. Canada welcomes this decision and hopes for a swift implementation."

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