Pharmaceutical Production and Related Technology Transfer: Landscape Report
(2011; 92 pages)


Prepared for the WHO Department of Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property by Suerie Moon (Kennedy School of Government and School of Public Health, Harvard University). This report forms part of the project entitled: Improving access to medicines in developing countries through technology transfer related to medical products and local production. It is implemented by the Department of Public Health Innovation and Intellectual Property of the World Health Organization (WHO/PHI) in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) with funding from the European Union (EU). The overall objective of the project is to increase access – especially for the poor in developing and least developed countries – to medicines, vaccines and diagnostics.

The local production of drugs in developing countries has long been seen as a potential way to increase access to medicines and improve public health. At the same time, such production also held the possibility of supporting other policy goals such as economic development, industrialization and accelerated technological capacity. The potential importance of local production was recognized in the 2008 WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (GSPA-PHI), which points to local production of pharmaceuticals as a key area for investment in Element 3 and focuses on health-related technology transfer in Element 4.

Renewed interest in local production arises against the context of increased interconnectedness and vulnerability to global health threats, a changed global intellectual property regime, growing capacity in key developing countries to produce and develop medicines, globalization of the pharmaceutical supply chain, the expansion of developing country pharmaceutical markets, and increased attention to the challenge of ensuring equitable access to medicines. This landscaping study was conducted for the WHO Secretariat on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property project “Improving access to medicines in developing countries through technology transfer related to medical products and local production”, which is funded by the European Commission. The purpose of the study is to provide:

  • a description of the landscape of local production of drugs, relevant investment promotion and related transfer of technology;
  • an outline of current and recent initiatives (taking place within the past 5–10 years);
  • an identification of gaps and preliminary assessment of the initiatives.

This report provides a description of the current landscape related to the local production of drugs in developing countries and related technology transfer. The objective is to assist WHO in its support for Member States in implementing the GSPA-PHI, with particular reference to the promotion of capacity building for local production in developing countries.

Overall, the study offers a descriptive overview of trends in local production of drugs and related technology transfer and the key issues that arise. Vaccines and diagnostics are not covered in this study, due to important differences between pharmaceutical production and the development of vaccines and new diagnostics. These topics form the subject of separate reports in this series...

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