The trade agreements emerging from the Uruguay Round* and globalization* are going to have a significant impact on the global market for goods and services. The production and marketing of drugs and health services could be affected to varying degrees.
The Uruguay Round served as a framework for the negotiation of a global agreement on intellectual property rights* (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights - TRIPS*). This Agreement is the part of the Final Act of the Uruguay Round that could have the greatest repercussions on the production of and access to drugs, especially in developing countries.
In this context, the Forty-Ninth World Health Assembly in May 1996, adopted a resolution requesting the Director-General to “report on the impact of the work of the World Trade Organization (WTO) with respect to national drug policies and essential drugs”.
The Action Programme on Essential Drugs* has therefore drawn up a plan of action with the following objectives:
• To identify issues in the WTO Agreements relating to access to essential drugs and pharmaceutical policies, and to inform Member States about them.
• To study the implications of globalization for innovation, and for the development, production, marketing and pricing of drugs, so as to identify the possible effects of the TRIPS Agreement and other trade agreements on access to essential drugs.
• To inform Member States about the need to take steps to protect public health in parallel with the implementation of the new trade agreements.
* The words marked with an asterisk are explained in the chapter “Definitions and terminology”.
This document is an initial response to the request by the World Health Assembly.
After a brief overview of the development of international trade, it gives pointers on how to read the TRIPS Agreement from the perspective of access to drugs. It also seeks to identify how much freedom is left for Member States to regulate the protection of intellectual property, and how they can enact legislation that both conforms with the Agreement and is consistent with health policy.