EU ratifies compulsory drug licensing

The European Union backed a trade protocol that will give poor countries better access to cheap generics in the event of an epidemic. The deal allows countries that can't afford brand-name meds to bypass patent protections. Under the proper circumstances, poor nations can force drug makers to grant licenses for knockoff drugs.

The U.S. hasn't yet ratified the protocol, fearing abuse of the compulsory licenses. And it's true that the term "poor country" isn't well defined. The EU already is fighting with Thailand--which forced Sanofi-Aventis to make a malaria treatment available on the cheap--because the commission doesn't consider Thailand to be poor.

- check out the release from the European Parliament
- read the Financial Times report