Research Paper 47, May 2013

Access to Medicines and Intellectual Property: The contribution of the World Health Organization

The topic of intellectual property first appeared in the WHO in 1996 and coincided with the end of the Uruguay Round and the creation of the World Trade Organization. In 1995 the Charles III University of Madrid with the WHO Drugs Action Programme (DAP) organized a conference where Professor Carlos Correa presented a paper entitled “The Uruguay Round and Drugs”. The 40 page article analyzes the possible implications of the WTO Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on access to medicines and discloses the “room to manoeuvre” that the Agreement has to protect Public Health. This article, “The Uruguay Round and Drugs”, was the first document that specifically alerted the health sector of the possible implications of the TRIPS Agreement on public health and in particular, on access to medicines.

Even during negotiations of the Uruguay Round (1986-1994) some negotiators from developing countries foresaw that the TRIPS Agreement would have important implications in relation to pharmaceuticals and health. Shortly after its adoption, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published a study on the TRIPS Agreement and developing countries.


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