Intellectual Property, Pharmaceuticals and Public Health

Intellectual Property, Pharmaceuticals and Public Health

Access to Drugs in Developing Countries

Edited by Kenneth C. Shadlen, Samira Guennif, Alenka Guzmán and N. Lalitha

This up-to-date book examines pharmaceutical development, access to medicines, and the protection of public health in the context of two fundamental changes that the global political economy has undergone since the 1970s, the globalization of trade and production and the increased harmonization of national regulations on intellectual property rights.

Chapter 7: The Politics of Patents and Drugs in Brazil and Mexico: The Industrial Bases of Health Policies

Kenneth C. Shadlen

Subjects: development studies, development economics, law and development, economics and finance, development economics, health policy and economics, political economy, law - academic, intellectual property law, law and development, politics and public policy, political economy, social policy and sociology, health policy and economics


Kenneth C. Shadlen1 Intellectual property (IP) policies influence trajectories of industrial development and capacities to address humanitarian concerns. As pillars of national systems of innovation, IP regimes drive technological change through their effect on knowledge-creation and knowledge-diffusion. By affecting access to technologically intensive goods, such as pharmaceuticals, IP regimes influence national public health programs. This chapter bridges these dimensions. Analysis of the politics of drug patents in Brazil and Mexico shows that how IP affects the industrial sector – particularly the pharmaceutical industry – establishes the political economic parameters affecting countries’ abilities to use IP to promote public health. Prior to the 1990s, neither Brazil nor Mexico (nor many other developing countries) granted patents on pharmaceuticals.2 Local firms could produce “generic” versions of new drugs – drugs that typically were patented in developed countries that offered pharmaceutical patents.3 1 The British Academy and Nuffield Foundation financed research for this chapter, which was first published as an article in Comparative Politics (Vol. 42(1) (October 2009), 41–58). It is reprinted with the permission of the journal. Rodrigo Martinez assisted in Mexico; Eduardo Fernandez provided invaluable support in Brazil. I thank Sarah Brooks, Matthew Flynn, Kevin Gallagher, Cori Hayden, Lawrence King, Ariane McCabe, Tim Power, Diego Sanchez-Ancochea, Andrew Schrank, and Pamela Starr for suggestions, and the journal’s referees for their constructive reviews. 2 Until the 1970s and 1980s many developed countries did not issue pharmaceutical patents either. 3 By “generic” I refer to drugs unprotected by patents. Some definitions also stipulate that the drug...

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