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.
The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement: Putting Profits Before Patients
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.
This update provides a snapshot of the publications and social media activities of the South Centre during the month of April 2019.
The ‘obvious to try’ method of addressing strategic patenting: How developing countries can utilise patent law to facilitate access to medicines
The current patentability standards for pharmaceutical inventions, as well as strategic patenting used by pharmaceutical companies, have substantially impacted access to affordable medicines. This has been especially detrimental for developing countries, which are under significant pressure to remain compliant with their international and bilateral obligations, while also providing their people with essential drugs. In order to improve access to medicines, developing countries may choose from a range of various mechanisms that may help to facilitate such access, while also allowing them to remain compliant with their international and bilateral obligations. This policy brief suggests that one of such mechanisms is to strengthen the obviousness requirement by applying the ‘obvious to try with a reasonable expectation of success’ test to pharmaceutical follow-on inventions. It is argued that the application of this test may be an effective tool in addressing the negative effect of strategic patenting. It may help to prevent the extension of patent protection and market exclusivity of existing drugs by pharmaceutical companies and, as a result, may open such medicines up to generic competition.