Public Health and Plain Packaging of Tobacco: An Intellectual Property Perspective
By Thamara Romero
In 2018, a World Trade Organization (WTO) Panel ruled that plain packaging of tobacco products was consistent with Australia’s obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and was in the interest of public health. Plain packaging restricts the use of logos, colours and brand images to reduce the demand for and consumption of tobacco products by diminishing their advertising appeal. This paper discusses the intellectual property aspects triggered by the implementation of plain packaging, examines the best practices for its implementation and provides analysis of Australia’s case from the public health perspective. It also highlights the main arguments used in the dispute against Australia and provides practical guidance for WTO Members on implementing measures to protect public health.
Guide for the Granting of Compulsory Licenses and Government Use of Pharmaceutical Patents
By Dr. Carlos M. Correa
Like other rights, patent rights are not absolute. There are situations in which their exercise can be limited to protect public interests. Such situations may arise, for instance, when access to needed pharmaceutical products must be ensured. Compulsory licenses and government use for non-commercial purposes are tools, provided for under most laws worldwide, that can specifically be used to address public health needs. This document is intended to provide legal guidance for the effective use of such tools, consistently with the international law.
Evolution of Data Exclusivity for Pharmaceuticals in Free Trade Agreements
By Wael Armouti
Free trade agreements (FTAs) introduce higher intellectual property (IP) protection than those established in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS-plus provisions) that deprive the parties from benefits of the use of flexibilities found in the TRIPS Agreement to protect public health. One such TRIPS-plus requirement is that of data exclusivity. It establishes that the government should provide an exclusivity period for the test data developed by the originator company, on the grounds of an incentive rationale and considerations of fairness. The negative impact of the data exclusivity approach in developing countries means that the entry of cheap generic products is delayed, even under a compulsory license, which will affect access to affordable medicines. Countries that have already signed the FTAs can mitigate its effects on public health by limiting the scope of and providing exceptions to data exclusivity in national legislation.
Rethinking R&D for Pharmaceutical Products After the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Shock
By Dr. Germán Velásquez
The unprecedented global health crisis caused by the coronavirus –COVID-19– pandemic, during the first quarter of 2020, brings back with particular urgency the discussion about the research and development (R&D) model for pharmaceuticals and other health technologies. The COVID-19 crisis shows that there is an urgent need to re-design the global public health governance for health R&D. The adoption of a binding instrument –as allowed by Article 19 of the WHO Constitution– on this matter was proposed many years ago. This brief argues that it is time to revive and materialize this initiative.
Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Access To Medicines: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography (3rd Edition)
About the Book:
The South Centre seeks to provide appropriate technical assistance and country support to developing countries, within comprehensive and coherent national IP strategies to promote implementation of the TRIPS Agreement that is consistent with the protection of public health and the promotion of access to medicines. This selected and annotated bibliography has been prepared to assist developing countries to implement IP policies and regulations consistent with development goals and public health principles. The growing volume of literature on the issue of IP, R&D, human rights and access to medicines can help developing countries to find the opportunities and room for manoeuvre to protect their citizens from the unhealthy environment created by international trade rules. This bibliography is not an exhaustive list but it highlights some of the most pertinent works from the South views and perspectives. The selected references are a valuable instrument for those interested in promoting universal access to medical innovation.
The COVID-19 Pandemic: R&D and Intellectual Property Management for Access to Diagnostics, Medicines and Vaccines
By Viviana Muñoz Tellez
The ongoing rapid spread of COVID-19 is challenging the capacity of governments and of the World Health Organization (WHO) to timely put in place a global coordinated response to the pandemic. Developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in particular in Africa are especially vulnerable to the unfolding effects of the public health crisis. A priority area for global collaboration is to advance research and development (R&D) for vaccines and medicines that are made available, affordable and accessible worldwide.
There is currently no vaccine and no proven safe and effective direct therapy for COVID-19. There is also the need to accelerate testing capacity and tools in developing countries and LDCs with increased access to low-cost diagnostics. The approach to the management of intellectual property rights by research institutions, pharmaceutical and biotech companies and R&D funders will decisively affect availability and access, as well as the transfer of technology and know-how. Governments must ensure that they have legislative and procedural frameworks in place to enable them to over-come any patent, data exclusivity and trade secret barriers to procure and produce COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines, medicines and other therapeutics.
Intellectual Property and Trade Measures to Address the Covid-19 Crisis by the South Centre
The South Centre views with concern the attempts by some governments and industry players to monopolize the availability of treatments, diagnostics, medicines, medical supplies and devices needed for their own nationalist agenda or to maximize profit, ahead of societal interest in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. The private enforcement of patents and government trade restrictions may pose a dire threat to the containment of this global public health emergency. Governments should act swiftly to put in place legislation and plans to ensure that patents and trade measures do not become barriers for access to those products.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Data Exclusivity and Access to Biologics
By Dr. Zeleke Temesgen Boru
The test data rule concerning biological medicines (hereafter biologics) has been suspended from the scope of application of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). While the suspension is commendable from the general standpoint of access to medicines and biologics in particular, the suspended provision may not provide assurance for the Parties to the CPTPP that they can rely on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibilities to promote access to biologics. In part this is because the Parties may end the suspension if and when they choose to do so. Simply put, the agreement does not promise that the suspended provision will remain suspended; rather, the Parties may revive the provision as originally negotiated under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. The provision, if revived, may inhibit the Parties from implementing an obligation to ensure access to biologics, medicines that target chronic and rare ailments like cancer, clotting factors and several others.
Against this backdrop, this research paper focuses on the test data rule relating to biologics as negotiated under the TPP. In particular, it explores whether the CPTPP Parties would be able to use TRIPS flexibilities effectively to promote access to biologics, as advanced by international human rights instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The paper also provides potential responses to the question of whether the test data rule deters the realization of access to biologics. In response, the author has determined that the rule on test data can limit access to biologics, as it would delay the entry of affordable biologics (biosimilars) into markets.
Intersección entre Competencia y Patentes: Hacia un Ejercicio Pro- Competitivo de los Derechos de Patente en el Sector Farmacéutico
Por María Juliana Rodríguez Gómez
La interacción entre propiedad industrial, particularmente patentes farmacéuticas, y el derecho de la competencia, tiene un impacto en asuntos de interés general como los derechos a la salud, al acceso a los beneficios de la tecnología y a la libre competencia. La cuestión es cómo hacer compatible un mercado farmacéutico competitivo y dinámico, con el sistema de patentes, que otorga monopolios legales significativamente amplios sobre productos considerados innovaciones. A partir de un análisis legislativo y casuístico, se concluye que son necesarias mejores políticas pro competitivas -en especial en países en desarrollo- para enfrentar prácticas como el reverdecimiento (‘evergreening’) de patentes, los acuerdos para demorar la entrada de competidores y la negativa a licenciar, entre otras usadas en el sector farmacéutico para bloquear la entrada de la competencia. Los competidores, los consumidores y los sistemas de salud son vulnerables al creciente número de patentes y a esas prácticas. Diversas medidas pueden adoptarse, sin embargo, para lograr un balance entre la protección de la innovación y la competencia.
Antimicrobial Resistance: Examining the Environment as Part of the One Health Approach
By Mirza Alas
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a serious issue that is threatening the medical and agricultural advances of today. The connections that exist among human health, food production and the environment necessitate a One Health approach to address the challenge of AMR. Recent research points to the environment as an essential factor in the spread of AMR, as well as a possible reservoir of antimicrobial resistant bacteria and genes. The process, however, of the environmental transmission of resistance genes, along with their effects and how to mitigate them, is still being examined. As new research emerges, so to have new challenges regarding the selective pressure of antibiotics on the environment. AMR in the environment is not new, with resistance genes found even in isolated places (e.g. in permafrost or volcanoes) but understanding this natural process and its implications for tackling AMR continue to pose many questions. This paper aims to examine some of the emerging research on AMR from a One Health perspective and in particular to highlight the role of the environment. It will explore the use of antibiotics and their effects in different ecosystems, as well as the challenges they pose for developing countries: in particular, in designing policies to address antimicrobial resistance that take into account the connections among humans, animals and the environment.
Eighteen Years After Doha: An Analysis of the Use of Public Health TRIPS Flexibilities in Africa
By Yousuf A Vawda and Bonginkosi Shozi
As we observe the 18th anniversary of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and Public Health, it is appropriate to take stock of intellectual property developments and endeavour to present a comprehensive account of the situation in the African continent in respect of the implementation of TRIPS flexibilities, specifically those regarding access to medicines. This research paper provides an overview of the extent to which selected African countries have adopted legal and policy frameworks with regard to TRIPS flexibilities, examines the actual use of these flexibilities in enabling access to medicines in those countries, and suggests some recommendations for optimising the use of the flexibilities in pursuing public health imperatives.