HC Deb 27 November 2003 vol 415 cc439-40W
Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what action her Department is taking to combat the illegal trade in anti-retroviral drugs; [142145]

(2) what estimate she has made of the value of anti-retroviral drugs traded illegally in each of the last five years. [142146]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

No specific estimate has been made of the value of anti-retroviral drugs traded illegally in the last five years.

However, with the increased emphasis on trade in differentially priced drugs—including anti-retroviral drugs—to developing countries, it is likely that there will be an increase in the number of attempts made by unscrupulous traders to divert differentially priced drugs from their intended markets in developing countries to markets in developed countries in order to take advantage of the higher prices (and therefore higher profit margins) which can be obtained in markets in developed countries.

It is important that we address this issue, both in order to ensure that such drugs reach the people in developing countries who need them most and to ensure that diverted drugs do not undermine the market in developed countries which is necessary to allow for further research and development into new drugs.

The Government have consistently supported suitable measures to combat the diversion of differentially priced drugs. We have supported the introduction of a new EU Regulation intended to combat the diversion of differentially priced drugs; worked with our G8 colleagues to secure commitments to action on this issue at the G8 summit in Evian; and ensured there were suitable provisions addressing the issue of diversion in the recent agreement in the WTO on how countries with insufficient manufacturing capacity in the pharmaceutical sector can make effective use of the compulsory licensing provisions in the WTO TRIPS Agreement.