Access to medicines

Drug Patents Under the Spotlight: Sharing practical knowledge about pharmaceutical patents

Drug Patents Under the Spotlight. Sharing practical knowledge about pharmaceutical patents pdf — 1.14 MB Download

Abstract

Patents have been one of the most hotly debated topics on access to essential medicines since the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the conclusion of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 1994. Patents are by no means the only barrier to access to life-saving medicines, but they can play a significant, or even determinant, role in that they grant the patent holder a monopoly on a drug for a number of years. The patent holder’s freedom to set prices has resulted in drugs being unaffordable to the majority of people living in developed countries. On the other hand, a functioning patent system is also supposed to guarantee that the public at large benefits from any innovation, including medicines. Countries have deployed various strategies to strike a balance between private and public interests in their intellectual property systems, and they have had various degrees of success. Getting the balance just right is particularly important for governments of developing countries as they work to protect public health while making their patent laws TRIPS compliant. A full and frank re-appraisal of the role that a patent system plays in public health alongside other public policy tools is now taking place. The WTO 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health has played a powerful role in this process. Another important development has been the publication of the report of the UK Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, “Integrating Intellectual Property Rights and Development Policy” in September 2002[1], which strongly advocated for patent systems that support the public health policies of developing countries, according to the needs and level of development of each country. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) works in many developing countries around the world. Procurement of medicines is part of the organisation’s daily business, which is why we are interested in knowing which medicines are patented in which countries. This information is currently not publicly available in a form that can be easily understood.