Major Challenges for the Future
Chapter 7: Patents and Access to Essential Medicines
7. Patents and access to essential medicines ‘Essential medicines’ are those that satisfy the healthcare needs of the majority of the population. The World Health Organization has been advocating for access to essential medicines for those who need them. It demands essential medicines be available to people ‘at all times in adequate amounts and in the appropriate dosage forms, and at a price that individuals and the community can afford’ (WHO 2000a). Nowadays, despite large-scale government infrastructure investment to improve basic public health services, lack of access to essential medicines remains a serious public health problem in many countries. Millions of people worldwide and over one-third of the population in developing countries in Asia and Africa still do not have regular access to needed medicines (WHO 2003a). Access to essential medicines generally depends on four critical factors: affordability, rational selection and use, sustainable financing, and reliable supply systems. Among these factors, affordability (that is, the high price of medicines in relation to income) seems to be the most significant element that makes medicines inaccessible. As this applies to many essential drugs, one way to promote accessibility involves the use of a system to increase competition and thereby lower the prices of medicines. This chapter will look at legal mechanisms that India and Thailand have used to improve access to medicines. I ACCESS TO MEDICINES IN INDIA India’s population is estimated to be more than 1.1 billion and is growing at a rate of 1.3 per cent per annum. It currently...
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