The protocol amending the TRIPS Agreement, which was agreed in 2005, is intended to formalize a decision to ease poorer WTO members’ access to affordable medicines. The protocol allows exporting countries to grant compulsory licences (one that is granted without the patent holder’s consent) to their generic suppliers to manufacture and export medicines to countries that cannot manufacture the needed medicines themselves. These licences were originally limited to predominantly supplying the domestic market.

At the most recent meeting of the Council for TRIPS on 8-9 November, the Chairperson, Ambassador Modest Jonathan Mero of Tanzania, urged WTO members that have not yet accepted the amendment to do so expeditiously. He noted that his call echoes “the multiple efforts Director-General Azevêdo and my predecessors have made since last year to secure the entry into force of the protocol. The Director-General, in his contacts, regularly emphasizes that this is not only a priority for the WTO, but represents a concrete contribution that WTO members could make to global efforts to strengthen the legal framework for access to medicines.”

With Dominica’s acceptance, over 65 per cent of WTO members have submitted their instruments of acceptance for the TRIPS protocol. The protocol will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership has formally accepted it.

The up-to-date list and map of members that have accepted the protocol are available here.

More information on the issue of TRIPS and public health is available here.

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