A Critical Assessment of the Effectiveness of Existing Legal Measures Available to Reconcile the Public Interest in a Wide Range of Affordable and Accessible Medicines

Tripti Tripathi
Adjuct Faculty at Department of Law, Amity University Jharkhand, India.

Volume III, Issue V, 2020

The concept of intellectual property (IP) was developed during the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works treaties of 1883 and 1886, respectively. The intention was to provide legal protection to novel intellectual creations, including industrial novelties and accomplishments of art.  Industrial IP law entails patents for novel inventions and trademarks for branded products. Research and development, and advances in biotechnology and bioinformatics have resulted in massive advances in medicine. As a result, the synthesis of new drugs has taken a turn following the incorporation of patent law in these developments to protect the novel formulas and protocols involved. The culminating effect is a drug-market monopoly and exorbitant pricing of modern drugs rendering them inaccessible to developing countries and poor populations in developed countries. Importantly, the actual tragedy is surrounded by the inequality between high and low-income countries in acquisition of essential drugs to curb infectious and emerging diseases, particularly in sub-Sahara Africa and some parts of Asia.  A global crisis in relation to health has emerged with escalating deaths occurring yearly for treatable or preventable diseases.

The rising costs of drugs and medicines, coupled with changing economic policies and trends in the global market has advocated the awareness on the role of patents in drug pricing. It is in this regard that the World Trade Organization (WTO) was developed to establish trade liberalization and standardization.  More importantly, the reduction of trade barriers in the global market is coupled with patenting, and the definition of minimum standards of intellectual property explained in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, introduce a contest with respect to their influence on public health. This article seeks in-depth understanding of the existing legal measures influencing access and affordability to drugs and medicines. Moreover, this article will critically evaluate the effectiveness of these legal measures and postulate the establishment of equitability and equality in public health interests and the rights of patent-holding companies.