Saving lives in developing countries

Joint media release:

  • The Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP, Cabinet Secretary, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation
  • The Hon Dr Craig Emerson MP, Minister for Trade and Competitiveness

17 August 2012

A new scheme providing access to vital medicines to sufferers of HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases in developing countries is being proposed in legislation intended to be introduced by the Federal Government later this year.

The Government today released for public comment a draft of legislation that would allow Australian laboratories to manufacture and export generic versions of patented medicines under specific conditions.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation, Mark Dreyfus, said the scheme allowed for special compulsory licensing of patented medicines to fight health epidemics in the developing world.

“Australia supports innovation through the patents system and we acknowledge the important rights of patent holders, but we must also play our part as a good global citizen and do what we can for those less fortunate than ourselves“, said Mr Dreyfus.

The United Nations estimated that in 2010 approximately 260 million people were infected with malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis, resulting in 3.6 million deaths.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson said developing countries had enormous medical challenges and often couldn’t afford the right treatments for conditions such as HIV/AIDS, and diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.

“The proposed Bill offers practical help for health emergencies by making vital medicines more accessible to the developing world to fight these diseases,” Dr Emerson said.

“Australians are renowned for being generous in spirit, and this Bill is a reflection of our desire as a nation to assist those who really need it.”

Mr Dreyfus and Dr Emerson encourage public comment on the draft Bill, which is scheduled to enter Parliament later this year.

“It’s important to have checks and balances to ensure that patent holders aren’t being taken advantage of. For example the Bill permits the Federal Court to license patented medicines for manufacture and subsequent export as generic and more affordable medicines,” said Mr Dreyfus.

“Exports of medicines under the scheme will be limited to serious health problems in countries unable to manufacture essential medicines, and patent owners will receive adequate compensation.”

The scheme implements the Protocol amending the Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Agreement (TRIPs Protocol). The related draft Bill and Explanatory Memorandum can be accessed at www.ipaustralia.gov.au

Media enquiries

  • Minister's Office: (02) 6277 4330
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555