Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Measures which slashed patented HIV drug prices needed to ensure access to new essential meds, author says

The author of a new book believes that governments must employ the same approaches to intellectual property (IP) that were used to improve affordable access to anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS when it comes to new essential medicines.

Lawyer and public health advocate Ellen ’t Hoen has written Private Patents and Public Health: Changing Intellectual Property Rules for Access to Medicines, a book released by the non-governmental organization Health Action International.

The IP expert's book chronicles parallel developments in global public health and international patent laws. It warns that strict patent regimes are creating pharmaceutical monopolies that keep medicine prices – particularly for new hepatitis C, cancer and tuberculosis medicines – beyond reach for patients in all countries, rich and poor.

Ms ’t Hoen said: “Global health and access to medicines policies are now at a critical juncture. To avoid other access to medicines crises, like the HIV/AIDS epidemic in which 8,000 people per day died when affordable treatment was not available, governments must take bold action to restore balance in the pharmaceutical patent system. To do this, they can use a range of policy tools that have successfully increased HIV/AIDS treatment access for 13 million patients worldwide since the early 2000s.”

Ms ’t Hoen cites numerous successes over the past decade of governments using flexibilities in the IP system whereby patents were licensed or not enforced to lower the price of HIV medicines and improve access among citizens.

The shift in approach to patents for HIV medicines opened the door for the establishment of the Medicines Patent Pool, the United Nations-backed public health organization which negotiates patent licences with manufacturers for HIV, hepatitis C and tuberculosis treatments.

To improve the future of pharmaceutical innovation and ensure robust financing mechanisms for research and development (R&D) are put in place, the book also discusses proposals for internationally-negotiated agreements for essential medical R&D.

Health Action International has also launched a new website,, that incorporates simplified content from Ms ’t Hoen’s book, providing information about the relationship between IP and access to medicines.

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