The relationship between intellectual property rights, innovation and health has become controversial, with many blaming patents for the very low rates of access to medicines in poor countries. Meanwhile, it has been observed that current patterns of research and development do not precisely reflect the global disease burden.

This report is a collaborative effort of a global coalition of civil society groups that seeks to shed light on these issues. We have sought to address complex and difficult questions, such as “What are the best ways to encourage the development of new drugs for diseases endemic to lower-income countries?” and “What role does intellectual property play in such development?” When these issues are debated in intergovernmental fora, they are often obfuscated by the need to balance conflicting political agendas.

This report attempts to overcome these shortcomings by employing dispassionate theoretical and empirical analysis free of political considerations.

The report finds that much of the disease burden of lower-income countries could be alleviated if existing treatments and techniques were properly deployed. While no intellectual property system is perfect and checks and balances are needed, patents are not a substantial hindrance to access. On the contrary, when there is effective demand for drugs, patents act as a strong stimulus to innovation.

Unfortunately, government failures hinder both the distribution of existing medicines and the process of innovation. These failures range from tariffs and taxes, to stultifying pre-market regulations. If governments are serious about increasing access to medicine, then they should remove these barriers.

Sponsoring organizations:

Action Research and Community Health, India
Alternate Solutions Institute, Pakistan
ESEADE University, Argentina
Free Market Foundation, South Africa
Fundación Atlas 1853, Argentina
Global Bioscience Development Institute, USA
Imani, the Centre for Humane Education, Ghana
Institute for Public Policy Analysis, Nigeria
Instituto Ecuatoriano de Economía y Política, Ecuador
Instituto Liberdade, Brazil
Instituto Libre Empresa, Peru
Instituto Libertad y Progreso, Colombia
International Policy Network, United Kingdom
Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, Israel
Liberty Institute, India
PHD Chamber of Commerce, India