NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Should Drug Patents Apply in Poor Countries?

October 16, 2015

Under debate next week at the World Trade Organization's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Council will be a request to exempt least developed countries (LDCs) from enforcing pharmaceutical patent rights. 

The current exemption expires in 2021, but a permanent extension would allow domestic companies to bypass the current compulsory licensing during a health-care emergency and instead manufacture pharmaceuticals without the patent holder's approval.

Two years ago when an extension was submitted, LDCs were opposed by both the United States and the European Union.

  • Opponents noted that the waiver was not necessary since most medicines are not protected by patents
  • 140 non-government organizations such as the United Nations Development Programe, support the proposal stating that that "the public health crisis in LDCs is a long-term challenge that will endure at least as long as these countries remain LDCs."
  • The European Commission has departed from its original stance in 2013 and will most likely support the proposal.

The lengthy extension for LDC pharmaceutical patent enforcement will be decided next week, and while there is evidence that the U.S. has conferred with LDC representatives regarding the extension, the official outcome is still unpredictable.

Source:  Thomas A. Hemphill, "Should Drug Patents Apply in Poor Countries?" Real Clear Policy, October 9, 2015.


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