Médecins Sans Frontières
12 September 2002
calls on governments to act upon recommendations of the Commission
for Intellectual Property Rights.
to medicines is a major problem in the developing world. Every day
people continue to suffer and die because of lack of access to safe,
effective and affordable medicines. Patents are an essential part
of this, both in the way they affect drug prices and the extent to
which they stimulate the research and development of new drugs. This
issue has been examined in detail by the Commission for Intellectual
Property Rights (CIPR), established by the UK-Government in May 2001
Sans Frontières welcomes the findings of the CIPR on the issues
of patents and health. The CIPR report strongly advocates the view
that patents are tools of public policy and must operate to serve
the greater public good. It calls for patent systems that support
the public health policies of developing countries, according to the
needs and level of development of each country.
makes practical and action-orientated recommendations. The report
calls for all developing countries to considering narrowing to a absolute
minimum the type and scope of pharmaceutical patents, and for least-developing
countries to consider delaying the granting of pharmaceutical patents
for as long as possible.
endorses the reports' call for measures to ensure generic competition
to bring drug prices down in developing countries. Quick and easy-to-use
mechanisms should be designed and implemented for the granting of
compulsory licences to allow generic production. This report supports
what MSF and others have been advocating: that compulsory licences
should not be an exception but should become the rule to ensure that
the patent system does not hamper the development of a competitive
issue that needs to be resolved is how to ensure that production for
export to a country that has issued a compulsory license, but does
not have manufacturing capacity, can take place in another country
when patents are have been granted. The CIPR calls for a solution
that is quick and easy to implement, gives long term security and
is economically viable. These principles endorse 'an Article 30 exception'
that would continue to allow countries like India or Brazil that manufacture
medicines to export them to those that need them.
issue will be discussed at the WTO TRIPS Council meeting in Geneva
next week. The TRIPS Council cannot ignore the recommendations of
this report. As MSF has pointed out, and as the findings of the CIPR
suggest, the best solution is to adopt an Article 30 exception.
industry argues that future drug research and development depends
on intellectual property protection. The CIPR makes clear the fact
that the patent system is failing to stimulate innovation to meet
many medical needs. Analysis by MSF shows that drug research is largely
driven by profit prospects, not health needs. We are getting more
and more drugs of less and less use, while many killer diseases like
TB, malaria, and sleeping sickness are ignored because they only affect
poor people. 68% of new drugs represent little or no therapeutic advance;
and less than 1% of new drugs are developed for tropical diseases
that represent over 10% of the global disease burden. We strongly
endorse the reports' call for greater public sector responsibility
to address a health needs based research agenda and to ensure R&D
into neglected diseases.
Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health adopted by the WTO last November
was the beginning of a process to change the way intellectual property
is dealt with in the world. This process must continue. Governments,
both nationally and through international institutions, need to ensure
that public interest and in particular health needs determine the
patent policies that are crafted.
and pharmaceutical policies must not be curtailed by the patent system.
This will require institutional changes. For example, the report calls
for a change in the attitude of organisations such as the World Intellectual
Property Organisation (WIPO) that have so far given advice to developing
countries based almost exclusively on the supposed gains to be made
from having a patent system, rather than the dangers.
report is a further recognition of the need for greater action and
support to help developing countries put health first. No government
can ignore its recommendations.