Excessive intellectual property protections for HIV treatments: the momentum for reform
What a clear and informative presentation Charles Chauvel , Team leader, Inclusive Political Processes, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, United Nations Development Programme, New York, USA delivered towards the last end of Day One of the 2015Australasian .HIV and AIDS conference
The ethics of patents has long troubled most health practitioners, and none more so, than those wanting affordable access to antiretrovirals at rates that will not deter people receiving, needing or wanting HIV treatment or prophylaxis.
Charles outlined that disease and poor health remain major barriers to sustainable development in many countries. HIV and malaria and viral hepatitis continue to kill more that 5 million people every year and most of the deaths occur in low or middle income families. Even in rich countries, drugs like sofosbuvir are largely unaffordable to all the citizens. He also outlined that there are also non patent factors affecting access to medicines.
Charles outlined that a patent is a type of intellectual property. It is a social contract between an inventor and society. It gives the inventor the temporary and exclusive right to make use, export or market an invention in the country where the invention is patented.
Patents affect access by creating protection on existing drugs, and the patents give exclusive control to licence, manufacture and distribute the product. It also influences the kind of innovation which in undertaken in the first place.
The Agreement on Trade – related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights was agreed to in 1994 and came into force in 1995. There was also another agreement setting minimum standards of IP protection and enforcement for countries to follow.
TRIPS Agreement Objectives (Article 7) states” The protection and enforcement of IPRs should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to the balance of rights and obligations.”
TRIPS Agreement Principle (Article 8) indicate “ Members ……(should) adopt measures necessary to protect public health and nutrition, and to promote the public interest in sectors of vital importance to their socio- economic and technological development, ………” But the rights of the inventor Should also be protected.
Furthermore, there is IP “creep” and practices and measures since the original Agreement have consolidated the Agreement.
Charles outlined the high costs of ARVs. He said second generation ARVs cost 3.4 times more than first generation drugs. Third generation ARVs cost 23.4 more than the first generation ARVs. He indicated India make over 80% of ARVs and their legislation has enshrined the TRIPS agreement.
It also seems TRIPS may be further broadened and the term of patent protection extended and create barriers to medicines registration by “linking” IP to marketing requirements.
The Human Rights Commission called for reform in 2009 . It said “ …. Take into account the right o f everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health …..and supports public health policies that promote broad access to safe, effective and affordable medicine.”
In December, 2014, a resolution was put to the Secretary - General of the UN calling for reform. “We must continue to remedy the policy incoherence current in modes of international governance in matters of trade, finance and investment on one hand, and our norms and standards for labour, the environment, human rights and sustainability on the other.”
For many people, changes to TRIPS would be welcome and could not come too soon.
Charles Chauvel – thank you for your address and please keep up your good work.