Table of Contents

The Intellectual Property Debate

The Intellectual Property Debate

Perspectives from Law, Economics and Political Economy

New Horizons in Intellectual Property series

Edited by Meir Perez Pugatch

Intellectual property (IP) has become one of the most influential and controversial issues in today’s knowledge-based society. This challenging book exposes the reader to key issues at the heart of the public debate now taking place in the field of IP. It considers IP at the macro level where it affects many issues. These include: international trade policy, ownership of breakthrough technologies, foreign direct investment, innovation climates, public–private partnerships, competition rules and public health where it is strongly embedded in contemporary business decision making.

Chapter 10: The Realities of TRIPS, Patents and Access to Medicines in Developing Countries

Eric Noehrenberg

Subjects: economics and finance, cultural economics, intellectual property, law - academic, intellectual property law


Eric Noehrenberg* The question of patents and access to medicines in developing countries has been a controversial and often emotional debate for years, particularly since the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Seattle, USA in 1999. Often, the relationship between patents and access to medicines in developing countries is presented as a simple equation: the stronger the patents, the less access to medicines. In the media, the perceived conflict between patents and access to medicines is presented even more starkly: a child suffering from late-stage AIDS is presented on-screen and the viewer is informed that, if only the AIDS drugs were affordable, the child would live, but the price of the patented drugs are far beyond what the child’s family can afford. The program then cuts to an interview with a pharmaceutical industry executive, who speaks about the importance of intellectual property rights for future innovation, which is why patents should be upheld, even in developing countries. The viewer is thus left with the following impression: the child will die because the companies holding the patents on the drugs which he or she needs want to protect their profits. Given this presentation of the situation, it is only human to conclude that, if patents on drugs are resulting in the deaths of so many people around the world, they should be weakened or even dropped when they prevent people from getting the medicines they need. Indeed, health and consumer activists are advocating weakening of patents on pharmaceutical...

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