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The following editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Friday, 12-28:
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The issue of protecting drug patents loomed large in Doha, Qatar, as World Trade Organization members struggled in November to get a new round of trade talks off the ground.
Yes, negotiators from the WTO's 144 member countries did achieve what they had failed to do in Seattle two years earlier. They successfully launched the talks, which hold great promise.
But a key concession made by the United States appears _ on the surface at least _ to chip away at the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies that hold drug patents. If that's the case, the price will be high indeed and will be paid in future suffering that goes untreated because critical new drugs don't get developed.
The issue pits pharmaceutical companies against impoverished nations that face pandemics such as AIDS. The poor countries insist they must be …