- All > Public Health, Innovation, Intellectual Property and Trade > Intellectual Property (IP) and Trade
(2011; 48 pages)
While TRIPS did include flexibilities for access to essential medications, there was a lack of consensus over the meaning of, and methods for, utilizing those flexibilities.
This hampered early efforts to widen access to antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle- income countries. In this context, the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, (adopted in November 2001 at the Fourth World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference was a major milestone. The Doha Declaration clarified the scope of, and provided interpretive guidance for, the policy flexibilities embodied in the TRIPS Agreement that could be used to ameliorate the impact of patents on access to medicines. It also extended until 2016 the transition period before least-developed countries (LDC) must provide patent protection to pharmaceuticals. Of equal importance was the confirmation provided by the Doha Declaration that public health considerations can and should condition the extent to which patents on pharmaceuticals are enforced and that flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement could be used to improve access to medicines.
The continued use of TRIPS flexibilities remains as critical today as it was in 2001 when the Doha Declaration was adopted. We cannot afford to be complacent. Determined efforts to use these flexibilities in the face of challenges, as well as taking innovative approaches to support the use of TRIPS flexibilities, including the Medicines Patent Pool, south-south cooperation initiatives and patent transparency initiatives, will provide options for maintaining and expanding the gains that the global community has made in equitable access to HIV treatment.