Intellectual Property and Public Health: An Overview of the Debate with a Focus on U.S. Policy
Over the past fifteen years, the United States and other developed countries have employed trade agreements to substantially strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical products in the developing world. The associated rules changes have already had an effect on pharmaceutical prices in developing countries, prompting conflicts between developing country governments seeking to promote drug access and Western pharmaceutical companies wishing to protect their exclusive rights. If anything, such conflicts are bound to intensify as more patent protected drugs enter pharmaceutical markets outside rich countries. This paper describes the global shift in intellectual property policies and employs economic analysis to evaluate its consequences for developing countries. It also puts forward several recommendations for policymakers in developing countries and in the United States, seeking to better reconcile innovation incentives and access needs.
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