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.
Special Section 301:US Interference with the Design and Implementation of National Patent Laws
By Dr. Carlos M. Correa
The continuous application of Special Section 301 by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) undermines the rule of law as a fundamental principle of a multilateral system based on the sovereign equality of states and the respect for international law. Interference with foreign countries’ national intellectual property (IP) policies—which have significant socio-economic effects—negates their right to determine independently the level and modalities of protection of such property within the framework and policy space allowed by the international law. This paper examines the patent-related claims made by the USTR in relation to the developing countries on the USTR Priority Watch List. It argues that the regulations and practices identified by the USTR show a legitimate use of the flexibilities provided for by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and that the ignorance of the public interests of the countries concerned (for instance, with regard to access to affordable medicines) has contributed to the discredit (and ineffectiveness) of the Special Section 301.
Non-Violation and Situation Complaints under the TRIPS Agreement: Implications for Developing Countries
By Nirmalya Syam
While the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) provided for the applicability of non-violation and situation complaints to the settlement of disputes in the area of intellectual property (IP), when the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements were adopted in 1994, a moratorium was put in place until WTO Members could agree on the scope and modalities for the application of such complaints. However, for more than two decades, discussions in the TRIPS Council on the subject have remained inconclusive. The biannual WTO Ministerial Conference has granted extensions of the moratorium with regularity. This paper reviews the debate on the applicability of non-violation and situation complaints under the TRIPS Agreement, including the arguments consistently held by two WTO Members that if the moratorium is not extended by consensus, non-violation and situation complaints would become automatically applicable. This paper argues that a consensus decision by the WTO Ministerial Conference is required to determine the scope and modalities and, hence, the applicability of such complaints under the TRIPS Agreement. Even if the moratorium was not extended, the WTO Ministerial Conference should still adopt a decision calling on the TRIPS Council to continue examination of the scope and modalities of such complaints. It also argues that in the absence of an extension of the moratorium on initiating such complaints—and although they would not be applicable—a situation of uncertainty would be created that may lead to a de facto limitation in the use of flexibilities allowed under the TRIPS Agreement.
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.
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.
Second Medical Use Patents – Legal Treatment and Public Health Issues
By Clara Ducimetière
This paper attempts to give an overview of the debate surrounding the patentability of new therapeutic uses for known active ingredients, both in developed and developing countries. After close scrutiny of international patentability standards, this paper concludes that second medical uses do not qualify per se for patent protection and have only been protected in several jurisdictions by means of a legal fiction. The increasing acceptance of second medical use patents seems to result from strategic patent filing from pharmaceutical companies to extend the life of existing patents, justified mainly for financial reasons. However, these practices have a detrimental impact on generic competition and, hence, on the access to medicines and the public health, in particular in developing countries. Therefore, this paper argues that a sound patent policy in line with public health objectives, in particular, an enhanced access to medicines, should not allow for the grant of second medical use patents.
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.
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.
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.
The ‘obvious to try’ method of addressing strategic patenting: How developing countries can utilise patent law to facilitate access to medicines
By Olga Gurgula
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.