Monday November 5 1:27 PM ET
Drug Industry Under Fire at World Trade Meeting
By Ben Hirschler
LONDON (Reuters) - The global drugs industry, accused by critics of profiting from AIDS (news - web sites) in Africa and bioterrorism in the United States, faces a rough ride at world trade talks in Qatar this week.
Executives were on the backfoot at an industry conference in London on Monday, warning of a ``slippery slope'' as developing countries and health activists stepped up a campaign to secure broad rights to override patents on lifesaving drugs.
The $300-billion-a-year industry sees a profit threat in demands by 60 developing countries, led by Brazil and India, for a loosening of the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Poor countries argue that TRIPS rules, guaranteeing 20-year patents on medicines, make it hard for governments faced with HIV (news - web sites)/AIDS and other epidemics to get access to drugs. Drugmakers say the system is vital to reward innovation.
The controversy has been complicated by threats from Canada and the US to override patents on Bayer AG's antibiotic Cipro, in order to protect citizens against anthrax, leading to accusations of double standards.
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