CAFTA Condemned on ARV Access Threat

April 28, 2005

The Central American Free Trade Agreement, due to be enacted by the US Congress next month, has been condemned by US-based HIV/AIDS activist group the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The organisation operates a number of free treatment centres throughout Central America, and recently criticised the Mexican government's adoption of tougher regulations against inexpensive generic and copy drugs.

In Guatemala late last year, legislators voted to repeal Decree 9-2003, which modified the intellectual property law to provide five years' data exclusivity on medicines registered in the country. The move, welcomed by international agency Medecins Sans Frontieres, has since been overturned and is also now likely to be overridden by CAFTA. However, there is little consensus over whether the agreement will be able to strengthen intellectual property laws beyond those in TRIPS.

CAFTA's data exclusivity terms are likely to face significant confusion, as the countries affected will be signatories to both the FTA with the US and TRIPS. Further, the issue of compulsory licensing of patented HIV/AIDS therapies is now set to become fractious in the absence of coherent generics policies in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.