WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

15 March 2001

WHO, WTO Secretariats to hold workshop on affordable drugs


A workshop on how to improve poor countries’ access to essential drugs is to be convened by the World Health Organization and World Trade Organization Secretariats in early April.

The Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry is hosting the workshop, which is on “Differential Pricing and Financing of Essential Drugs”, and will be held at H°sbj°r, Norway from 8 to 11 April 2001. The Global Health Council, a broad-based US non-government organization in the health-care field, is organizing the event.

The workshop will be a meeting of experts, not an intergovernmental conference. It will provide an opportunity for the experts to exchange views on an important subject that has received a considerable amount of public attention. It will explore how to achieve public health objectives within the framework of WTO trade and intellectual property rules.

It will look at the full range of obstacles that developing countries face in obtaining essential drugs, both patented and generic. A main focus will be on the questions of differential pricing and financing.

Differential pricing — sometimes called “tiered” or “equity” pricing — means charging lower prices in poorer countries.

The workshop will explore the conditions that would provide a win-win situation — one that would benefit everyone involved.

Among the questions that will be examined in detail are how to prevent low-priced drugs from leaking back from poor countries to rich ones.

On the financing side, the question is how much is needed to purchase essential drugs through international and domestic sources, and how it can be raised.

The workshop will bring together about 50 experts from industrialized and developing countries. They will come from research-based and generic manufacturers, governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations concerned with international health and consumer rights, and academics and consultants who are expert in drugs, financing, pricing or trade policy. The workshop is not expected to produce pledges or joint commitments.

A press statement summarizing the main points of discussion will be issued immediately after the workshop. Documents commissioned and presented in the workshop will also be publicly available, along with a jointly published WHO-WTO secretariat report of the workshop, in May 2001.

The workshop itself will be closed to the media, but journalists who would like more information about the issues discussed are welcome to contact:

  • WTO, Geneva — Peter Ungphakorn: tel (41-22) 739 54 12, email [email protected]

  • WHO, Geneva — Jon Liden: tel (41-22) 791 39 82, email [email protected]; and Gregory Hartl: tel (41-22) 791 44 58, email [email protected]

  • Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo — Jon M°rland: tel (47) 22 24 39 11, email [email protected]

  • Global Health Council, Washington DC — Mary Partlow: tel (1-202) 833 5900; email [email protected]

* Joint WTO-WHO-Norwegian Foreign Ministry-Global Health Council press release