An Open Letter to WTO members:


December 19, 2002

Women and Health Protection strongly objects to efforts by the United States and other countries to limit the scope of diseases covered under the Doha Declaration of November 2001.

The Ministerial agreement that came out of Doha was meant to ensure that the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS agreement) would not prevent countries from accessing medicines necessary to protect the public health in their jurisdictions. Now a group of developed countries, including Canada, is trying to reinterpret Doha to mean that only drugs necessary to treat infectious diseases are covered. This reinterpretation means that developing countries may not be able to access drugs that treat important causes of diseases. According to an article in the 11 November 2, 2002, edition of The Lancet, the leading causes of disease in high-mortality developing regions include unsafe sex, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In lower-mortality developing regions cancer and chronic respiratory diseases are also major causes of morbidity and mortality. None of these problems would be covered under the proposed agreement that is now circulating.

We believe that it is unacceptable to leave major causes of disease untreated especially in light of the recent Report Of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care which states that "Canada should take a clear and unambiguous position that access to affordable, quality health care should not be compromised for short-term economic gain. Every country should retain the right to design and organize its health care system in the interests of its own citizens. International trade agreements should not penalize countries, especially those in the developing world, for protecting and promoting their own domestic approaches to delivering health care services."

The proposal to reinterpret the Agreement reached last year in Doha is unacceptable and should be withdrawn.


Members of the Women and Health Protection Working Group (

Edward Aiston, International Affairs Directorate, Health Canada
Ross Duncan, International Affairs Directorate, Health Canada
Deanna St.Prix-Alexander, Women's Health Bureau, Health Canada


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