Training Paper 1, December 2019

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.

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 del “South Centre Training Materials” 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.

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 Materials” 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.

The “South Centre Training Materials” is a new series of documents designed to support South Centre training workshops and seminars in developing countries to improve access to medicines. Improving equity in access to medicines is an essential part of the realization of government responsibilities with regard to the right to health, a fundamental human right legally recognized by many governments.

The South Centre offers diverse trainings and workshops to developing countries aimed at improving access to medicines by introducing a public health perspective in the management of intellectual property rights in the pharmaceutical sector.

The South Centre aims to support developing countries governments to be better equipped to adapt their IPR regimes –policies, laws, regulations and practices–, to improve the availability and affordability of essential medicines.

These training materials will be used by the South Centre in its project “A public health approach to intellectual property rights” but they will be available to governments, agencies and institutions carrying out training of various kinds, to improve access to medicines as a fundamental component of universal health coverage.

Download the training paper below:

Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines: An Introduction to Key Issues – Some Basic Terms and Concepts


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