Perspectives from Law, Economics and Political Economy
- New Horizons in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Meir Perez Pugatch
Chapter 10: The Realities of TRIPS, Patents and Access to Medicines in Developing Countries
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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