- Traditional Medicine > Traditional, Complementary and Herbal Medicine
- Public Health, Innovation, Intellectual Property and Trade > Intellectual Property (IP) and Trade
(2001; 88 pages)
When trying to develop national -or regional- policies for ensuring access to traditional medicines and/or for the protection of traditional medicinal knowledge, the first steps would seem to be to clearly identify the objectives and to set priorities. Yet, as the preceding chapters may have shown, this is all but obvious, since:
• There are multiple objectives. For each objective, one or more strategies related to or having an impact on IPR can be identified; however, as pointed out in paragraph 5.2, the (main) strategies for achieving different objectives are at times conflicting;
• With the possible exception of a fairly broad consensus (at least among health professionals) that ensuring access to traditional medicine should be high on the list of priorities, there is little agreement on how to prioritize the various objectives - in fact, there is a tendency of wanting to achieve most -if not all-objectives simultaneously;
• Strategies deployed for achieving a particular objective may influence the attainment -or not- of other objectives; thus, they may interfere with the prioritization of objectives35;
35 If for example the priorities are to ensure access to traditional medicine, to avoid misappropriation of traditional medicinal knowledge and to ensure fair and equitable benefit sharing, a major, IPR-related strategy supporting the first two objectives would be publication of traditional medicinal knowledge. But publishing peoples or communities' knowledge takes away their rights over this knowledge, and once people have lost those rights, it is less likely that they will obtain their fair share of the benefits. Thus, a 'publication strategy' would largely undermine the achievement of the third priority.
The conflict of strategies -and their interference with the objectives- is even more pronounced in case 'promoting the development of traditional medicines' is high on the priority list.
• Moreover, the long-term impact of some strategies is not clear, may be paradoxical and/or could interfere with the rights of certain groups of people, thus raising complex questions regarding ethics and equity;
• And last, but probably not least, as mentioned in previous paragraphs, IPR strategies employed in the context of traditional medicine may interfere with those envisaged in the context of ensuring access to (modern) pharmaceuticals.
Thus, rather than somewhat artificially trying to prioritize the different objectives, a more pragmatic approach might be to bypass prioritization, and, instead, to focus on balancing the various objectives and strategies.