The trilateral study, titled “Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation,” presents policy options involving health, trade and intellectual property, in a combination that some might have described as an oxymoron. Intellectual property and trade have,
in certain circumstances, been presented as barriers to access to medicines, rather than enhancers.
The 250-page book, the result of three years of collaboration, is aimed at policymakers, international organisations, academics, researchers and non-governmental organisations.
World Trade Organization (WTO), World Health Organization (WHO) and World Intellectual Property Organization officials at the launch of the study on 8 February.
World Trade Organization (WTO), World Health Organization (WHO) and World Intellectual Property Office officials at the launch of the study on 8 February.
WTO director general Pascal Lamy said the “report emphasises that innovation and access must be seen holistically.”
“Innovation without effective access offers scant public health benefit,” Lamy said, adding that development of new medicines and new medical technologies need to be encouraged.
“The study points out the importance of the patent system for the pharmaceutical sector, while also identifying alternative incentive mechanisms that seek to enable much-needed new products in neglected diseases,” he said.
In addition, it looks at “measures such as differential pricing as a practical way of reconciling innovation and access in medical technologies,” Lamy said, adding that the study was meant to enable “an overview of how diverse policy measures can fit together coherently.”
WHO in Favour of Public Interest
WHO Director General Margaret Chan called it “a big report with a noble ambition.” The ambition is to “help countries promote access to medical technologies and stimulate the development of new products, especially for diseases of the poor.” Every country in the world is worried about rising health care costs, she said.
In the past, trade rules and IP regime have been viewed by many people as barriers to the pursuit of public health goals, she said. Certain practices can make prices artificially high and delay the market entry of more affordable generic products, she added.
According to Chan, policy spheres in public health, intellectual property, and trade share much common ground and many social values, and all those policy spheres should operate in the public interest. International systems that govern IP rights and trade have health-specific provisions, she said, including numerous checks, balances, exemptions, exceptions and flexibilities.