Access to Medicines: the Role of Intellectual property Law and Policy

El Said, Mohammed orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9409-1481 and Kapczynski, Amy (2012) Access to Medicines: the Role of Intellectual property Law and Policy. Working Paper. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

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Intellectual property (IP) policy is an important structural determinant of health. Patent policy influences the rate and direction of innovation for health, playing a positive or negative role depending on how it is shaped and implemented. Patent policy also has critical implications for access to existing medicines and medical technologies. This has been illustrated most dramatically in the context of the global Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)/ Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pandemic. Prices for a three-drug combination of anti-retroviral (ARV) HIV therapy in 2000 from patent-holding companies exceeded USD $10,000 per person per year, ensuring that treatment could not be extended to the vast majority of those living with HIV around the world. Generic competition led to precipitous price reductions, so that today treatment can be provided for less than USD $75 per person per year. This history has contributed to the growing recognition that strong patent law applied to pharmaceuticals in developing countries undermines access to medicines and compromises the human right to health. While the relationship between IP and innovation is covered in a separate paper, it is worth noting here that there is little reason to expect that stronger patent rights in developing countries will lead to any substantial offsetting gains in innovation for the affected countries. Developing countries represent a very small share of the world’s pharmaceutical market, meaning that the marginal added value of stronger patent protection will be small, and is unlikely to outweigh the costs to access.


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Access to Medicines: the Role of Intellectual property Law and Policy
Mohammed El Said and Amy Kapczynski

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