Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines: An Introduction to Key Issues – Some Basic Terms and Concepts
Intellectual property and patents in particular, have become one of the most debated issues on access to medicines, since the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the coming into force of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Patents are by no means the only barriers to access to life-saving medicines, but they can play a significant, or even determinant, role. During the term of patent protection, the patent holder’s ability to determine prices, in the absence of competition, can result in the medicine being unaffordable to the majority of people living in developing countries. This first issue of the “South Centre Training Materials” aims, in its first part, to provide an introduction to key issues in the field of access to medicines and intellectual property. The second part describes and defines some basic terms and concepts of this relatively new area of pharmaceuticals policies which are the trade related aspects of intellectual property rights that regulate the research, development and supply of medicines and health technologies in general.
South Centre Quarterly Report, 1 July to 30 September 2019
This Quarterly Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st July to 30 September 2019. It is intended to provide information, organized by themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the Centre’s Work Program, meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or provide analytical support for negotiations taking place in various international fora, and conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated. It also informs about publications made and publication/websites/social media metrics.
South Centre Statement at the United Nations High Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage
Access to health is a human right and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is essential to achieve health for all. States should ensure through public funding, based on solidarity and the fair redistribution of wealth, that nobody is deprived from health care. Policies that promote competitive markets for pharmaceuticals, particularly in the area of procurement, regulatory approvals (including biologicals) and intellectual property, should be implemented. Governments should make use of the available space in the TRIPS Agreement to apply rigorous definitions of invention and patentability standards and use other flexibilities allowed.Below is the South Centre’s Statement to the UN High-Level Meeting on UHC held on 23 September 2019 at the UN headquarters in New York. The Centre noted the recognition, in the draft political declaration, of the responsibilities of governments as well as of their right to choose their own path towards achieving UHC.
USMCA debe ser enmendado para asegurar el acceso a medicamentos en México
Por Maria Fabiana Jorge
El capítulo del U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)/Tratado entre México, los Estados Unidos y el Canadá (T-MEC) dedicado a los derechos de propiedad intelectual (DPI) otorga monopolios más prolongados y amplios a las empresas de medicamentos originales que los que están actualmente en vigor en México, a costa de los pacientes y los contribuyentes. Entre otras cosas, México tendría que conceder a las ampliaciones de la vigencia de las patentes períodos de exclusividad más amplios y prolongados, también para los medicamentos biológicos costosos, tanto por las demoras en la concesión de patentes como para aquellas que se encuentren en el proceso reglamentario de aprobación, y ampliar las normas de patentabilidad, por ejemplo, exigiendo la concesión de patentes para nuevos usos. México es, sin lugar a dudas, el país del T-MEC que se verá más perjudicado, pero si los miembros del Partido Demócrata de la Cámara de Representantes de los Estados Unidos pueden renegociar algunas de estas disposiciones para restablecer cierto equilibrio entre la necesidad de fomentar la innovación y la competencia, el Gobierno del presidente López Obrador y el Congreso de México todavía pueden cambiar la situación.
Inequality is one of the greatest challenges that the world needs to face. Inequality is intimately linked with poverty. Although there has been progress in reducing poverty, a large part of the global population (overwhelmingly living in developing countries) is still denied access to a dignified life. While no poverty and reduced inequality are two of the outstanding Sustainable Development Goals, these and other goals are unlikely to be achieved by 2030. In fact, inequality is on the rise. Changing this situation will certainly require significant efforts at the national and regional level. But it also requires an international architecture that supports those efforts by respecting the policy space that countries need and coordinating constructive actions within the multilateral system. The current initiatives to ‘reform’ this system will only be legitimate if they recognize the gaps in the levels of development and contribute to effectively address them under a fair, pro-development system of rules. Please see last month’s SouthViews on “Understanding global inequality in the 21st century” by Jayati Ghosh, development economist and Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Access to medicines: US democrat lawmakers oppose intellectual property rules in the USMCA restraining access to affordable biosimilars
On July 11, 2019, US democrat lawmakers signed a letter addressed to US Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, expressing strong opposition to provisions that limit access to medicines in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). They are requesting to amend the USMCA to increase competition and enhance patient access to more affordable prescription drugs, particularly biosimilars. The current USMCA text would limit Congress’ ability to adjust the biologics exclusivity period, locking the US into policies that keep drug prices high while exporting this model to Mexico and Canada. Below is a link to the letter.
Le 11 juillet 2019, représentants démocrates du Congrès américain ont signé une lettre adressée à Robert E. Lighthizer, le représentant américain au commerce, exprimant leur forte opposition aux dispositions de l’Accord conclu entre les États-Unis, le Mexique et le Canada, qui limitent l’accès aux médicaments. Ils demandent que les dispositions de l’Accord soient modifiées afin de favoriser davantage la concurrence et de faire en sorte que les patients puissent accéder à des médicaments sur ordonnance à un coût abordable, en particulier les médicaments biosimilaires. Le texte actuel de l’Accord a pour conséquence de limiter la capacité du Congrès à ajuster la durée de la période d’exclusivité pour les médicaments biologiques, enfermant les États-Unis dans une politique tendant à maintenir le prix des médicaments à un niveau élevé tout en exportant le modèle au Mexique et au Canada. Vous trouverez ci-dessous le lien sous lequel la lettre peut être consultée.
El 11 de julio de 2019, legisladores demócratas de los Estados Unidos firmaron una carta dirigida al representante de Comercio de los Estados Unidos, Robert E. Lighthizer, expresando su firme oposición a las disposiciones que limitan el acceso a medicamentos en el Tratado entre México, los Estados Unidos y el Canadá (T-MEC). Solicitan modificar el T-MEC para aumentar la competencia y mejorar el acceso de los pacientes a medicamentos con receta más asequibles, especialmente a los biosimilares. El texto actual del T-MEC limitaría la capacidad del Congreso para adaptar el período de exclusividad de los medicamentos biológicos, lo que obligaría a los Estados Unidos a establecer políticas que mantengan altos los precios de los medicamentos mientras se exporta este modelo a México y al Canadá. A continuación, se encuentra un enlace a la carta.
The USMCA must be amended to ensure access to affordable drugs in Mexico
By Maria Fabiana Jorge
The intellectual property rights (IPRs) chapter of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA) grants longer and broader monopolies to originator pharmaceutical companies than those currently in force in Mexico, at the expense of patients and taxpayers. Among other things, Mexico would be required to provide patent term extensions both for delays in the granting of patents and for those incurred in the regulatory approval process, broader and longer exclusivity periods, including for expensive biologic drugs, as well as to adopt broader patentability standards, for example by requiring the granting of patents for new uses. Mexico is, without doubt, the country in the USMCA that will be most negatively impacted, but if the Democratic Members of the US House of Representatives are able to renegotiate some of these provisions to restore some balance between the need to foster innovation and competition, the Administration of President López Obrador and the Mexican Congress can still make a difference.
South Centre Statement on Access to Biosimilars/Biogeneric Medicines at the WHA 72
The revision of the guidelines on similar therapeutic products mandated by Resolution WHA67.21 is crucial for promoting the availability of and access to biosimilars. The reduction in prices ensuing from the introduction of these products has become essential to address public health needs in developed and developing countries. The WHO Document A72/59 under consideration by the WHA 72 (agenda item 21.3) states in paragraph 80 that “WHO expert committees have approved guidance on (…) biotherapeutics, including an update of the 2009 similar biotherapeutic products guidelines”. This statement is not accurate, as the guidelines were not updated as mandated by Resolution WHA67.21. Below is the South Centre statement in relation to this issue.
South Centre Statement at the Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Health Ministers
Dr. Carlos Correa, Executive Director of the South Centre, stressed the need to preserve the World Health Organization (WHO) as a public, independent agency that effectively addresses the health problems of developing countries, at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Health Ministers Meeting held on the occasion of the 72nd World Health Assembly. Below is the statement of the South Centre delivered at the Palais des Nations, Geneva on 21 May 2019.
The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement: Putting Profits Before Patients
By Maria Fabiana Jorge
In the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA, NAFTA 2.0), the U.S. Trade Representative negotiated intellectual property provisions related to pharmaceuticals that would enshrine long and broad monopolies. This policy brief focuses primarily on the negative effects of the USMCA intellectual property provisions on access to medicines in the U.S. Such effects may be even worse for Canada and Mexico. The impact of this trade agreement goes well beyond the three countries involved as this is the first one negotiated by the Trump Administration and is likely to set a precedent for future trade agreements. A careful review of the USMCA text raises very serious concerns about the impact that this agreement would have on the generic/biosimilar industry and therefore on access to more affordable drugs throughout the world.
South Centre Quarterly Report, 1 October to 31 December 2018
This report summarizes the programmatic activities of the South Centre during the period 1st October to 31 December 2018. It is intended to provide information, organized by Program and themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the South Centre’s Work Program and publications made and meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or to provide analytical support for international negotiations taking place in various fora. It also informs about external conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated.