Since 1999, the issue of globalization, patents and drugs has undergone a dramatic evolution that has placed it at the top of the public agenda. Under this spotlight, the debate has taken on a higher degree of complexity, often resulting in a confusion in terms, positions and consequences. Issues that had not been traditionally considered in the analysis have grown in importance as HIV/AIDS was transformed from a public health care challenge into a global pandemic requiring urgent responses, but ones which were too costly to implement. Even though we are on the verge of eradicating polio, largely thanks to international cooperation, forgotten illnesses continue to kill thousands of people reopening debates on the issues involved. Approaches that some years ago were not considered suitable for the public health domain are currently being vindicated due to their comprehensiveness and adaptability.
Analysing globalization, patents and drugs now requires not only close attention to the public health consequences of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), but also an in depth study of the figures for the research and development (R&D) of new drugs. There is a need to establish what obligation, if any, international actors, such as private companies and national authorities, have in guaranteeing access to drugs. This bibliography brings together very different points of view from the most diverse quarters, ranging from academic experts to health professionals, including publications of pharmaceutical companies and nongovernmental organization (NGO) reports.
Updating this bibliography, which was previously revised in 2001, constitutes clear evidence of the growing volume of literature (scientific, legal and other) being produced around the issue of access to drugs and globalization. A human rights perspective has been incorporated into this edition in order to enlarge the scope of arguments and opinions. This is necessary in order to better understand the inherent complexity of the issue and the role played by a wide range of factors and elements. The debate is far from closed but the sense of urgency and the need for a coherent response have prompted more constructive approaches. The discussion is no longer exclusively centred on the benefits or prejudices of the WTO TRIPS Agreement but rather focuses on the existing opportunities to adapt to ever-changing realities, particularly in developing countries where those in greatest need live.
The fact that discussions at the WTO are having an impact on the debates organized by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, while the deliberations at the World Health Assembly are increasingly being listened to in trade circles, are yet more examples of the interconnections and the need for a comprehensive approach to this issue.
This edition has been enriched with over 60 new references. Basic literature on TRIPS, patents, R&D and human rights and access to drugs are to be found among the general articles. More focused works are referenced in the specific sections that have been included in this version or, in some cases, in the chapter pertaining to country studies by region. Indeed, the geographical division of previous editions is combined with a thematic approach, adding three new sections: TRIPS and patents, R&D and human rights and access to drugs. The aim of this new approach is to better capture the global nature of the issue while taking into consideration possible domestic implications and effects. New electronic addresses have been incorporated, reflecting the wider range of information sources on the subject that are now available, including newsletters, institutional web sites and other electronic initiatives.