Private Patents and Public Health. Changing Intellectual Property Rules for Access to Medicines
(2016; 194 pages)

Copyright © 2016 Ellen ’t Hoen The author has made an online version of this work available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 licence. The eBook can be accessed at


Millions of people around the world do not have access to the medicines they need to treat disease or alleviate suffering. Strict patent regimes introduced following the establishment of the World Trade Organization in 1995 interfere with widespread access to medicines by creating monopolies that keep medicines prices well out of reach for many.

The AIDS crisis in the late nineties brought access to medicines challenges to the public’s attention, when millions of people in developing countries died from an illness for which medicines existed, but were not available or affordable. Faced with an unprecedented health crisis — 8,000 people dying daily — the public health community launched an unprecedented global effort that eventually resulted in the large-scale availability of low-priced generic HIV medicines.

But now, high prices of new medicines — for example, for cancer, tuberculosis and hepatitis C — are limiting access to treatment in low-, middleand high-income countries alike. Patent-based monopolies affect almost all medicines developed since 1995 in most countries, and global health policy is now at a critical juncture if the world is to avoid new access to medicines crises.

This book discusses lessons learned from the HIV/AIDS crisis, and asks whether actions taken to extend access and save lives are exclusive to HIV or can be applied more broadly to new global access challenges.

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