Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Access to Medicines. Focusing the Analysis in the Americas. Report of the Working Group, Managua, Nicaragua, 14-16 April 2004
(2004; 15 pages)


The TRIPS Agreement (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) requires WTO (World Trade Organization) Member Governments to adopt and amend national laws to comply with the basic norms governing the protection of intellectual property. However, it also provides for the enactment of certain safeguards (for example, use of patents by governments; compulsory licensing; parallel imports; and other exceptions to exclusivity rights) that can void or limit the rights of patent holders under certain conditions. In fact, such measures have been introduced by developed countries in order to balance intellectual property rights with the public interest, encouraging competition, protecting consumers, and in the case of medicines, promoting access to affordable medicines by substituting expensive products with generics.

In the Region of the Americas, the amendment of national intellectual property laws has been dictated primarily by the need to ensure that national legislation is compliant with TRIPS. However, a number of bilateral and regional free trade negotiations and agreements have recently been initiated that go beyond TRIPS in protecting the rights of innovators, and establishing regulations that imply additional restrictions on access to medicines in the countries of the Region.

Within this context, PAHO/WHO organized a Working Group meeting on TRIPS and Access to Medicines, with the participation of experts from the Region of the Americas. The purpose of the meeting was to formulate a series of recommendations for countries to facilitate the incorporation of TRIPS provisions when modifying intellectual property legislation, through global, multilateral or bilateral trade agreements, emphasizing the importance of public health and access to medicines.

The issues addressed in this report should be considered within the broader framework of developing and implementing medicines policy, as part of national health policy, which ensures access to and the rational use of essential drugs. The policy development process requires the participation of all stakeholders to strike a balance between the different approaches and competing interests, while recognizing at the same time that health and economic conditions differ in each country of the Region.

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