TRIPS Flexibilities and Access to Medicines: An Evaluation of Barriers to Employing Compulsory Licenses for Patented Pharmaceuticals at the WTO
By Anna S.Y. Wong, Clarke B. Cole, Jillian C. Kohler
Under Articles 31 and 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement, WTO members may validly sanction the use of a patented invention without the patent owner’s authorization by issuing a compulsory license (CL). In the pharmaceuticals space, governments have historically employed compulsory licenses to compel originator manufacturers to license their patents to generic manufacturers before patent expiry, increasing the supply and reducing the price of patented pharmaceuticals domestically.
This paper evaluates the three primary barriers to employing compulsory licenses for pharmaceuticals underscored by members during TRIPS waiver discussions at the WTO: (1) a lack of enabling domestic legislation, (2) a lack of domestic manufacturing capacity coupled with an unworkable Article 31bis importation system, and (3) consistent political pressure from other members to refrain from issuing compulsory licenses. A survey of members’ domestic compulsory license legislation finds that virtually all members have enacted enabling legislation under Article 31 for the issuance of compulsory licenses to supply their local markets. However, implementation of Article 31bis is limited by a lack of enabling compulsory license export legislation, streamlined administrative processes, or both across all members, preventing members lacking domestic manufacturing capacity from importing pharmaceuticals. An analysis of USTR Special 301 Reports from 1994-2021 further reveals that countries have consistently been placed on the Special 301 Report Priority Watch List for issuing pharmaceutical compulsory licenses, with instances as recent as 2020. As such, general reluctance by members to issue compulsory licenses due to overt political pressure through the Special 301 Report is likely warranted. These results highlight a range of barriers preventing the full use of compulsory licenses for pharmaceuticals under the current Article 31 and 31bis framework, with the effects disproportionately borne by member states lacking domestic manufacturing capacity.
The purpose of this report is to analyse the vaccines industry under the focus of Industrial Economics as an input for the design of the pertinent instruments to promote development, manufacturing and distribution of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 in sufficient amounts to immunize all countries as soon as possible. We also need to be prepared for future emerging infectious diseases with the potential of global expansion.
The report shows that the vaccines industry is – and has been for a long time – far away from the competitive market paradigm with notorious market failures. As a result, the industry is underperforming with shortages and stockouts, exit of firms from the industry, underinvestment in research and development (R&D) and manufacturing, even an “anaemic development pipeline”, all signs of market failure.
After a brief review of policies implemented to tackle these problems we conclude that after the COVID-19 pandemic there is a need to implement a profound overhauling of the industry and to fundamentally reformulate and extend global public policies to stimulate R&D, manufacturing, distribution and access.
EU Proposals regarding Article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Nirmalya Syam
This Policy Brief presents an analysis of the proposal by the European Union (EU) with regards to Article 31bis of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), as part of a Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in the circumstances of a pandemic. It discusses the EU’s proposed clarifications, why Article31bis does not provide an effective solution to promote access to pharmaceutical products and possible options.
Propiedad intelectual y acceso a medicamentos: una introducción a cuestiones clave – algunos términos y conceptos básicos
Por Germán Velásquez
La propiedad intelectual y las patentes en particular se han convertido en uno de los temas más debatidos sobre el acceso a los medicamentos, desde la creación de la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC) y la entrada en vigor del Acuerdo sobre los Aspectos de los Derechos de Propiedad Intelectual relacionados con el Comercio (ADPIC). Las patentes no son de ninguna manera las únicas barreras para el acceso a medicamentos que salvan vidas, pero pueden desempeñar un papel significativo, o incluso determinante. Durante el período de protección de la patente, la capacidad del titular de la patente para determinar los precios, en ausencia de competencia, puede hacer que el medicamento resulte inalcanzable para la mayoría de las personas que viven en los países en desarrollo. Este primer número de los “Materiales de capacitación del South Centre” pretende, en su primera parte, ofrecer una introducción a cuestiones clave en el ámbito del acceso a los medicamentos y la propiedad intelectual. La segunda parte describe y define algunos términos y conceptos básicos de esta área relativamente nueva de las políticas farmacéuticas, que son los aspectos comerciales de los derechos de propiedad intelectual que regulan la investigación, el desarrollo y el suministro de medicamentos y las tecnologías sanitarias en general.
Revisiting the Question of Extending the Limits of Protection of Pharmaceutical Patents and Data Outside the EU – The Need to Rebalance
By Daniel Opoku Acquah
The European Union (EU) has instituted internal and external measures aimed at protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights. In the area of pharmaceutical patents, the Union has also sought to protect its industries through patent term extension and data exclusivity. Recent EU free trade agreements (FTAs) with developing countries contain chapters on intellectual property that extend patent terms and data exclusivity for pharmaceutical products. Such acts further prolong the lifespan of protection given to existing products and limit generic market entry. I identify the issue as one of “cross-pollination” of laws and argue that since similar laws exist in the internal regime of the EU, incorporating them into the EU would not be too technically difficult. However, to the extent that this regime is simulated in developing countries, implementation would damage the health sectors and economies of these countries. I therefore propose that developing countries should not be forced to adopt such laws through FTAs. If they are forced to adopt the laws after all, there should be a compulsory inclusion of (1) a clause on transitional arrangements for developing countries specific to intellectual property; (2) a clause that clearly links the objectives for intellectual property protection and enforcement (in this context, patent term extension and data exclusivity) to balance the promotion of technological innovation with access to medicines; and (3) a clause on Bolar exemption and a manufacturing waiver.
Creative imitation at the front of pharma biotechnology opportunities: some lessons from late late industrialization countries
By Pablo Lavarello and Sebastián Sztulwark
Given that high-cost biopharmaceutical drug patents have started to expire since the early 2000s, biotechnology opens up opportunities for developing countries to pursue an upgrading process by entering the sector as early imitators. Developing these opportunities was transformed on priority needs of health systems since the outbreak of COVID-19. Certain developing countries have advanced in a strategy of imitating biotechnological reference drugs once their patents have expired, opening a possibility for a catching up process.
TRIPS Flexibilities on Patent Enforcement: Lessons from Some Developed Countries Relating to Pharmaceutical Patent Protection
By Joshua D. Sarnoff
Authority for national judiciaries to issue permanent and preliminary injunctions is required by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Articles 44 and 50. But the TRIPS Agreement does not require the issuance of injunctions in any particular circumstances, and does not harmonize the laws on which national jurisdictions derive their injunctive relief authorities. Thus, countries remain free to refuse prohibitory injunctive relief for adjudicated or likely patent infringement, particularly if “reasonable compensation” is offered in the form of an “ongoing royalty” or an “interim royalty” payment, which acts similarly to a compulsory license. This paper explains the existing legal standards for permanent and preliminary injunctions in the United States and Canada and discusses trends regarding the issuance or denial of injunctions for pharmaceutical patents in those jurisdictions (with occasional reference to other common-law jurisdictions). Although judges in these jurisdictions more routinely deny preliminary prohibitory injunctions, legislation linking generic pharmaceutical regulatory approvals to the patent system and imposing stays of such approvals normally avoid the need for such preliminary injunctions. Consistent with the TRIPS Agreement, developing country judges may make different choices, based on the ability to provide reasonable compensation for harms or based on a different weighing of the importance of assuring affordable access to medicines relative to providing innovation incentives.
Today the judicial authority may be faced with balancing patent rights and patients’ rights or right to life. It shall use all the tools at its command and innovate if necessary, but shall rule in favour of life.
A New Trend in Trade Agreements: Ensuring Access to Cancer Drugs
By Maria Fabiana Jorge
A World Health Organization (WHO) report on cancer indicates that the cancer burden will increase at least by 60% over the next two decades, straining health systems and communities. Companies develop cancer drugs in part because payers are less resistant to paying high drug prices for these drugs. As Barbara Rimer, Dean of the University of North Carolina and Chair of the U.S. President’s Cancer Panel stated, “[m]ost cancer drugs launched in the United States between 2009 and 2014 were priced at more than $100,000 per patient for one year of treatment.” Many of the new cancer drugs are biologics. Such prices are clearly out of reach for most patients who will need them increasingly more to stay alive. While competition is critical to ensure lower drug prices, we have seen a number of strategies, including through trade agreements, to prevent competition and extend monopolies over these drugs and their very high drug prices. It is no accident that the exclusivity granted to biologic drugs has been one of the most conflictive provisions in recent trade agreements such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Nevertheless a new trend in trade agreements started in 2007 when U.S. Members of Congress pushed back against the interests of powerful economic groups seeking longer monopolies for drugs. These Members of the U.S. Congress prevailed then in restoring some balance in the trade agreements with Peru, Colombia and Panama and further consolidated this new trend in 2019 in the USMCA. Moreover, following the U.S. withdrawal from the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the negotiators of the remaining 11 countries also pushed back to ensure a better balance between innovation and access in the CPTPP. People around the world need to be aware of these precedents and ensure that they also work for access to medicines for their own citizens.
Propriété Intellectuelle et Accès aux Médicaments : Une Introduction aux Grandes Problématiques – Quelques Termes et Concepts de Base
Par Germán Velásquez
La propriété intellectuelle et les brevets en particulier sont devenus l’une des questions les plus débattues sur l’accès aux médicaments, depuis la création de l’Organisation mondiale du commerce (OMC) et l’entrée en vigueur de l’Accord sur les aspects des droits de propriété intellectuelle qui touchent au commerce (ADPIC). Les brevets ne sont nullement les seuls obstacles à l’accès aux médicaments qui sauvent des vies, mais ils peuvent jouer un rôle important, voire déterminant. Pendant la durée de protection d’un brevet, la capacité du titulaire du brevet à déterminer les prix, en l’absence de concurrence, peut faire en sorte que le médicament soit inabordable pour la majorité des personnes vivant dans les pays en développement. Ce premier numéro du “South Centre Training Papers” vise, dans sa première partie, à fournir une introduction aux questions clés dans le domaine de l’accès aux médicaments et de la propriété intellectuelle. La deuxième partie décrit et définit certains termes et concepts de base de ce domaine relativement nouveau des politiques pharmaceutiques, qui sont les aspects liés au commerce des droits de propriété intellectuelle qui régissent la recherche, le développement et la fourniture de médicaments et les technologies de la santé en général.
United States: An Obsolete Trade Practice Undermines Access to the Most Expensive Drugs at More Affordable Prices
By Maria Fabiana Jorge
Access to affordable drugs is a top policy priority for the United States with real bipartisan support but it increasingly seems to be an unreachable goal, in part, due to conflicting government policies. While the Administration’s Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs highlighted the importance of competition to ensure lower drug prices, U.S. trade policy in general, and the Special 301 Annual Review in particular, do exactly the opposite: broaden and lengthen the monopolies granted to pharmaceutical companies thus delaying or deterring the launch of generic and biosimilar drugs and with that, the chances of lowering drug prices. The pharmaceutical industry has changed a great deal in the past 30 years, among other things by developing complex biotechnology drugs that while critical for the treatment of illnesses such as cancer, are out of reach for many patients. While some parts of the government are trying to increase access to medicines through competition provided by generic and biosimilar drugs, their efforts are being undermined by a trade policy that was defined 30 years ago. It is time to adjust U.S. trade policy to the realities of 2020 and stop acting as if it was still 1989.