Intellectual Property Rights And Access to Medicine

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 19 February 2014

During a meeting on intellectual property and access to medicine, issues such as trade, HIV, responsibility and the ethics of patent laws were discussed. James Love, the director of Knowledge Ecology International, a NGO that deals with intellectual property on public health, cyberlaw, and competition, spoke about the differences between a research and development approach and a intellectual property approach. The current AIDS drugs, Mr. Love explained, are more heavily patented than ever. The existence of some organizations and programs, like The Global Fund, have allowed for new markets in even the poorest countries, and these new markets have also pushed more patents. Mr. Love emphasized that the purpose of trade agreements is not to increase prices or expand patent laws, but to sponsor research and development. He asked, “How can groups promote the efforts of research and development and detach it from the price of those drugs?” Mr. Love proposed ideas for how to rectify the current situation by incentivizing research and development, and eliminating patents for HIV drugs, at least in America. 

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Yawo Tenou, a representative of UNDP, shared his own experiences growing up in Botswana, a poor country severely affected by AIDS and a lack of access to medicine. He described many experiences where friends would loose both of their parents to AIDS and then be sent off to distant family, unknown would be the continuation of their education or livelihood. Mr. Tenou described the contextualization of intellectual property rights and how they impede on access to healthcare, proposing a balance for international trade laws to not affect treatment of diseases. Citing the Venice Statue of 1474 that rewards inventors and retains the right of government to act in the publics interest, Mr. Tenou advocated for generic competition to drive price down and allow access to higher quality treatment. Eleven out of the twelve treatments for non-communicable diseases approved by the FDA, cost over 100,000 USD per year per patient in the USA. The UNDP provides policy and technical assistance in the countries that need help accessing treatment and medicine. 

Meeting Title: Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines 

Key Speakers: Jean-Francis R. Zinsou (UN Ambassador of Benin), UNAIDS representative, James Love (Director of Knowledge Ecology International), Yawo Tenou (UNDP), Dr. Harry Ostrou (Researcher and geneticist)

Written By WIT Representative: Stephanie Harris 

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