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The controversial matter of intellectual property is holding up the development of an important multinational strategy to tackle diseases that afflict mainly poor countries. An editorial describes how strategic talks between 140 member states of the World Health Organization were suspended earlier this month when delegates failed to reach agreement after six days of negotiations. They won't be resumed until spring next year.
The whole process has been plagued by disagreements over protection of intellectual property, and in a linked correspondence public health officials from Thailand, the Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka accuse the drug industry of hijacking a web based public hearing in an attempt to influence the strategy's final content (doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61689-4). Forty three of the 68 contributions to the hearing supported robust measures to protect intellectual property, including 14 contributions from patient advocacy groups, and three from professional organisations. Eleven of the 14 patient groups and all three professional organisations had taken money directly or indirectly from drug companies.
Contributors to public hearings should be required to declare competing interests, say the officials.