Indexed on: 27 Jan '09Published on: 27 Jan '09Published in: The Lancet
The World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) set global minimum standards for the protection of intellectual property, substantially increasing and expanding intellectual-property rights, and generated clear gains for the pharmaceutical industry and the developed world. The question of whether TRIPS generates gains for developing countries, in the form of increased exports, is addressed in this paper through consideration of the importance of pharmaceuticals in health-care trade, outlining the essential requirements, implications, and issues related to TRIPS, and TRIPS-plus, in which increased restrictions are imposed as part of bilateral free-trade agreements. TRIPS has not generated substantial gains for developing countries, but has further increased pharmaceutical trade in developed countries. The unequal trade between developed and developing countries (ie, exporting and importing high-value patented drugs, respectively) raises the issue of access to medicines, which is exacerbated by TRIPS-plus provisions, although many countries have not even enacted provision for TRIPS flexibilities. Therefore this paper focuses on options that are available to the health community for negotiation to their advantage under TRIPS, and within the presence of TRIPS-plus.