The South Centre offers diverse services to its member States and other developing countries of the Group of 77 and China, aimed at improving access to medicines in the context of intellectual property policies.
About the Project
Improving equity in access to medicines is an essential part of the realization of government responsibilities with regards to the right to health, a fundamental human right that is also legally recognized by many governments.
Among the strategies that governments can employ to improve access to medicines is to promote a competitive market environment with an intellectual property rights (IPRs) regime that is supportive of public health goals.
The rationale for a public health intervention in the area of IPRs is that the legal protection of IPRs can limit competition by restricting the market entry of generic manufacturers that help to drive down prices for essential medicines. As a result, unaffordable prices for essential medicines keep patients from getting access to needed treatments. The national IPR legal and policy framework affects options for procurement and production of low-cost generics.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health encouraged developing countries “to use to the full the provisions in the TRIPS Agreement regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all.” The World Health Organization (WHO) in a number of resolutions, as well as the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.b, encourages governments to use the flexibilities in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to promote affordable access to medicines. The UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines also recommended WTO members to make full use of TRIPS flexibilities, to strengthen the capacity of patent examiners at both national and regional levels to apply rigorous standards of patentability taking into account public health needs, and to facilitate the issuance of compulsory licenses to increase affordability of medicines for which patents have been granted.
The South Centre will support governments to be better equipped to adapt their IPR regimes –policies, laws, regulations and practices–, to support production and procurement of affordable and quality medicines so as to increase their in-country availability in the public and private sector.
The project aims to build the capacities of developing and least developed countries (LDCs) to use the flexibilities contained in the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to promote access to essential medicines. Consequently, the project will focus on capacity building interventions such as training programs directed at patent examiners, judges and policymakers that lead to improved institutional policies, legal frameworks and practices in relevant institutions such as the Ministries of Health, Trade, Justice, External Affairs, and tribunals and courts, which facilitate the use of TRIPS flexibilities.
At the country level, different government institutions are responsible for dealing with IPR and public health issues. The South Centre offers technical assistance on demand to individual institutions, and brings together diverse institutions to discuss a common approach that makes public health policies and the IPR regime mutually supportive.
Supporting Progress on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda
Sustainable Development Goal 3 Target 3.b:
Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all.
About South Centre
The South Centre is an intergovernmental think tank of developing countries with currently 54 developing country member States from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, based in Geneva, Switzerland.
It seeks to promote the common interests of developing countries while recognizing and reflecting their diversity.
The main activities of the South Centre include policy research and analysis, technical assistance and capacity building activities, support in international negotiations, and the promotion of South-South cooperation through the sharing of views and experiences.