(2002; 56 pages) [French] [Spanish]
The role of TRIPS and IPRs
Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health: Paragraphs 2 and 3
2. We stress the need for the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) to be part of the wider national and international action to address these problems.
3. We recognize that intellectual property protection is important for the development of new medicines. We also recognize the concerns about its effects on prices.
Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Doha Declaration express the Members´ view with regard to the role of TRIPS and IPRs in the context of public health.
Paragraph 2 stresses “the need for” the TRIPS Agreement “to be part of the wider national and international action to address these problems”. This statement, read in conjunction with paragraph 4, seems to indicate that the extent to which the Agreement is part of the problem or of the solution to public health needs, crucially depends on the way in which the Agreement is implemented and interpreted. This paragraph suggests that intellectual property rights are one but not the only factor that affects public health and, in particular, access to drugs26.
26 Some analyses, particularly by the pharmaceutical industry, have stressed that access to drugs is fundamentally determined by non-IPR factors, such as health infrastructure and medical services. See, e.g., IIPI. See also the US submission to the Council of TRIPS (IP/C/W/340, 14 March 2002).
The first sentence of paragraph 3 alludes to the “important” role of intellectual property protection “for the development of new medicines”. Unlike other preambular paragraphs, this one specifically refers to “medicines”27. This statement - welcomed by the pharmaceutical industry - is balanced by the second sentence, which recognizes one of the troubling effects of patent protection: its impact on prices.
27 The crucial role of patents in inciting research in drug development has been the subject of extensive academic work, See, e.g. Kettler, 2002.
The patent system is designed to enable patent holders to set prices higher than those that would be obtained in a competitive market. The Doha Declaration recognizes that the high prices of medicines caused by patent protection are part of the grave problems that afflict developing countries and LDCs and is a “concern” that needs to be addressed. The consensus achieved on patent protection’s impact on drug prices may be considered one of the major political achievements of the developing countries in the Doha Ministerial Declaration.