Patent protection and economic development

April 24, 2007 at 9:55 am (Sarah's Posts)

How Do Patents and Economic Policies Affect Access To Essential Medicines In Developing Countries?

I’ve been working on a project about patent law in India and I stumbled on this article.

It is interesting to me because it goes against the main two positions on patent protection. Big pharma says that IP protection is necessary in order for them to live and activists say that IP protection is preventing people from getting access to essential and life saving medications. This person’s conclusion was that, if you look at the data, patents are granted to so few of the WHO-classified essential drugs that neither side can be right.

That is probably said better in this paragraph:

“These data allow the reexamination of some settled assumptions. There is a belief n the activist community that patents are “a barrier in many [developing countries] to accessing affordable medicines” and, balancing it, a belief in the pharmaceutical industry that it is “necessary to protect intellectual property rights on a global scale” to assure future research and development activities and the industry’s commercial viability. Both of these views are greatly exaggerated. Patents cannot cause essential medicines to be inaccessible in “many” developing countries because they do not exist 98.6 percent of the time; similarly, patents cannot be a “global” necessity of pharmaceutical business because companies forgo them 69 percent of the time. A limited number of exceptions reduce each figure to somewhat below 100 percent, but as an empirical reality those exceptions—and therefore the contentious round dividing these opposing views—are few.”

There are two things that I was thinking (that are partially addressed in the article.) One is that these trends don’t mean that there aren’t specific cases of drugs that need to be examined and their patent status changed. Especially because HIV/AIDS drugs are likely candidates to be on that list as new and novel drugs.

Secondly, this article makes the point (once again) that lack of access to medications is more dependent on economic policy and poverty than on specific obstacles that are blocking access. None of these things are a magic bullet solution.

I just had semi-related thought, on the topic of patents and copyrights. When I/we post articles that are from journals that require a log-in or payment to access, is that technically illegal and breaking copyright?

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