TRIPS: The Light Fantastic

  • by: |
  • 04/07/2008
I don’t know about you, but I get about 30+ e-mails a day from Jamie Love and his buddies telling me all about the public health benefits of compulsory licensing. If you buy the bunk, then you probably believe in the Easter Bunny. (Apologies to those of you who believe in the Easter Bunny.)

Nowhere has the Love-Line rhetoric been more omnipresent than at the recent session of the WHO’s Intergovernmental Governmental Working Group (IGWG).

Not that it was an even-playing field. The IGWG discussions were completely void of innovators -- with pharmaceutical researchers relegated to the sidelines. In their place were activists who are unwilling (and seemingly unable) to engage in any discussion that does not begin and end with removing systems of intellectual property (IP) protection for innovative medicines.

As with many of their ilk, these activists believe in freedom of speech – as long as what you say supports their position. Otherwise you’re a capitalist tool. Their grasp on the truth is questionable and, to their minds, the end justifies the means.

So it comes as no small relief that a comprehensive new study debunks the myth that TRIPS-related pharmaceutical patent protection is somehow contrary to enhancing the health of the developing world. The opposite is true – and truth speaks louder (if not more frequently) than rhetoric.

“Investments in Pharmaceuticals Before and After TRIPS: Property Rights and New Drug Development” (Authors: Margaret Kyle, assistant professor, London Business School and Anita M. McGahan, Professor, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto) examines the impact of TRIPS on investments in pharmaceutical R&D – with important and significant implications to the ongoing discussions at IGWG, regarding the benefits IP brings to the effort to enhance health in developing and less-developed countries.

Some extracts:

“TRIPS was central in the development of foundational pharmaceutical capabilities in least-developed and developing countries.”

“TRIPS had a strong, consistent, and major impact on general and corporate investment at every phase of research on global disease.”

But all is not rosy:

“There appears to be a gap that prevents the immediate efficacy of TRIPS in promoting the introduction of new drugs on poverty diseases.”

They continue: “On the other hand, TRIPS has encouraged research on disease that are present but not dominant in least-developed and developed countries, such as cardiovascular diseases and cancers.”

And they conclude by saying, “This research suggests an opportunity to implement policies that are complementary to TRIPS for filling this gap to promote research on poverty diseases immediately.”

So let's move forward. Let's work together. Let's leave the rhetoric aside.

(And sorry about the Easter Bunny.)

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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