EU adopts WTO deal for poor nations to access generic medicines



The European Union has adopted a World Trade Organization initiative to improve access for the world's poorest people to cheaper drugs for diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

'Health is an essential component of the UN's millennium development goals and therefore one of the main priorities of the EU development policy,' European foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels , said in a statement.

'The EU is firmly committed to ensure that in particular the least-developed countries have access to essential medicines at the lowest possible prices, in particular in their fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.'

The World Trade Organisation agreement, reached in December 2005, modified an agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS).

The deal allows poor nations to import, under certain conditions, cheaper generic versions of patented medicines.

However the TRIPS agreement will not enter into force until two-thirds of the 151 WTO members have ratified it.

Before the EU ministers meeting, only a dozen countries had ratified the measure, including India , Japan and the United States .

Several charities last week accused rich countries of undermining the World Trade Organization agreement.