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Access to essential medicines in developing countries: the impact of IPR on health inequalities

Shreya Jain; Lovely Professional University; 4th year

INTRODUCTION-

Overview One vital human right is the availability of essential medications. However, a variety of issues, such as the high cost of medications, inadequate health systems, and a lack of availability to reasonably priced generic medications, restrict access to these medications in many developing nations.

The availability and price of medications are significantly influenced by intellectual property rights (IPR). IPRs are a body of legislation that grants authors exclusive ownership rights to their inventions, designs, and other works of art. pharmaceutical companies have the temporary exclusive right to manufacture and market their medications because to intellectual property rights (IPRs).

IPR has a complicated and contentious effect on poor nations' ability to get necessary medications. IPRs have the potential to encourage pharmaceutical businesses to conduct research and create novel medications. However, IPRs can also result in restricted access to generic medications and exorbitant drug costs.


IPR's Effect on Drug Prices

Pharmaceutical businesses have the temporary exclusive right to manufacture and market their medications under IPR regulations. Pharmaceutical corporations are able to demand high rates for their products because of this exclusivity. The bulk of people in many developing nations cannot afford necessary medicines due to their exorbitant costs.

For instance, research conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) revealed that the cost of an HIV/AIDS treatment course in developing nations was ten times greater than that of a course of therapy in industrialized nations. Many individuals in underdeveloped nations were unable to afford the necessary treatment.


The Effect of IPR on Obtaining Generic Drugs

Generic medications are less expensive than name-brand ones. They are manufactured following the expiration of the brand-name drug's patent. Patients' treatment costs can be greatly decreased by using generic medications.

IPR regulations, however, have the power to postpone or stop the release of generic medications. This is so that drug corporations can utilize patents to keep their monopoly on a treatment longer than the original patent period. They can also deny generic businesses access to the knowledge required to make generic versions of their medications by using other IPR methods, such as trade secrets and data exclusivity.

For instance, a World Health Organization (WHO) research discovered that patents on HIV/AIDS medications caused an average six-year delay in the release of generic versions of these medications. There were an estimated 300,000 more HIV/AIDS-related fatalities as a result of this delay.

The high cost of medicines and the limited access to generic medicines in developing countries has a significant impact on health inequalities. People who cannot afford to pay for essential medicines are more likely to get sick and die from preventable diseases.


How IPR affects the cost of medicines

Intellectual property rights (IPR) are a type of legal protection that gives the creator of an invention or artistic work the exclusive right to make, use, and sell their creation for a period of time. This protection can be in the form of a patent, copyright, or trademark.

In the case of medicines, IPRs can be used to protect the research and development (R&D) costs that pharmaceutical companies incur in bringing a new drug to market. This protection can lead to high prices for medicines, especially in developing countries where people may not be able to afford them.


How IPR affects access to generic medicines

Generic medicines are copies of brand-name drugs that are made after the patent on the brand-name drug has expired. Generic medicines are typically much cheaper than brand-name drugs, and they can make essential medicines more affordable for people in developing countries. However, IPRs can also be used to block the production and sale of generic medicines. This can happen if the patent on the brand-name drug has not yet expired or if the patent is too broad.


The impact of IPR on health inequalities

The high cost of medicines and the limited access to generic medicines in developing countries has a significant impact on health inequalities. People who cannot afford to pay for essential medicines are more likely to get sick and die from preventable diseases.

For example, a study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that the high cost of cancer drugs in the United States led to an estimated 45,000 additional deaths from cancer each year.

What can be done to address the impact of IPR on health inequalities-

There are a number of things that can be done to address the impact of IPR on health inequalities. These include:

• Reforming the IPR system to make it more balanced and equitable. This could include measures such as reducing the length of patent protection, limiting the scope of patents, and creating exceptions for essential medicines.

• Investing in R&D for new and more affordable medicines. This could help to reduce the cost of medicines and make them more accessible to people in developing countries.

• Promoting the production and sale of generic medicines. This could help to increase competition and lower the cost of medicines.

• Providing financial assistance to people who cannot afford to pay for essential medicines. This could help to ensure that everyone has access to the medicines they need to stay healthy.

By taking these steps, we can help to address the impact of IPR on health inequalities and make essential medicines more affordable and accessible to people in developing countries.


IPR laws and access to essential medicines in developing countries

Intellectual property rights (IPR) laws are a type of legal protection that gives the creator of an invention or artistic work the exclusive right to make, use, and sell their creation for a period of time. This protection can be in the form of a patent, copyright, or trademark.

In the case of medicines, IPRs can be used to protect the research and development (R&D) costs that pharmaceutical companies incur in bringing a new drug to market. This protection can lead to high prices for medicines, especially in developing countries where people may not be able to afford them.


The impact of IPR laws on health inequalities

The high cost of medicines and the limited access to generic medicines in developing countries has a significant impact on health inequalities. People who cannot afford to pay for essential medicines are more likely to get sick and die from preventable diseases. For example, a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that the high cost of cancer drugs in developing countries led to an estimated 800,000 additional deaths from cancer each year.


The need for a balanced approach to IPR

There is a need for a balanced approach to IPR that takes into account the need to incentivize innovation while also ensuring that essential medicines are affordable and accessible to all. This could include measures such as:

Compulsory licensing: This allows governments to issue licenses to generic drug manufacturers to produce and sell generic versions of patented drugs without the consent of the patent holder. This can help to lower the cost of medicines and make them more accessible to people in developing countries.

Parallel importing: This allows generic drugs to be imported from countries where they are sold at a lower price. This can also help to lower the cost of medicines in developing countries.

The use of flexibilities in TRIPS: The TRIPS agreement is an international agreement on IPR. It includes a number of flexibilities that allow developing countries to take measures to protect public health, such as compulsory licensing and parallel importing.


IPR laws and developing nations' access to necessary medications

Laws pertaining to intellectual property rights (IPRs) grant the author of an invention or creative work the temporary, exclusive right to produce, utilize, and market their product. This defense may take the shape of a trademark, copyright, or patent. IPRs can be used to safeguard pharmaceutical companies' research and development (R&D) expenses when introducing new drugs to the market. The high cost of medications can result from this protection, particularly in developing nations where individuals may not be able to purchase them.

The necessity of an impartial IPR strategy An equitable approach to intellectual property rights (IPR) is required, one that balances the need to support innovation with the goal of keeping necessary medications accessible and cheap for all. This could involve taking actions like: Governments can grant licenses to generic drug producers to make and market generic versions of patented medications without the patent holder's approval through compulsory licensing. This has the potential to reduce the price of medications and increase their accessibility for citizens of developing nations.

Parallel importation: This enables the importation of generic medications from nations where they are offered for sale at a reduced cost.

 • The use of this can also assist in bringing down the price of medications in underdeveloped nations.


Conclusion

By taking a balanced approach to IPR, we can help to ensure that essential medicines are affordable and accessible to all. This will help to reduce health inequalities and improve the health of people in developing countries.

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