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New report examines ‘Intellectual Property for Better Health’

19 August 2011

The American Pharmaceutical Group and the Wellcome Trust have published ‘Intellectual Property for Better Health’, a conference report considering the issue of intellectual property and how the protection of new drugs and medical products affects innovation and access to medicines in low- and middle-income countries.

The report is a summary of a global conference held towards the end of 2010 that brought together opinion formers and experts from a range of disciplines - including public health, legal, national, non-governmental organisation (NGO) and pharmaceutical industry viewpoints - to discuss key issues surrounding intellectual property, identify areas of consensus and concern, and suggest possible routes forward.

There was a near consensus at the conference that in principle there is nothing wrong with the protection of intellectual property. Without protection, there is simply no incentive to innovate, and without innovation there will be few or no new drugs of any kind. The application and implementation of the principles need to be re-examined, however: the current system is clearly not delivering drugs to those in low- and middle-income countries in an equitable and affordable fashion.

The report highlights the fact that protection of intellectual property rights is only one factor limiting access to new medicines. Many other factors are important, not least countries' healthcare infrastructures. Public health needs to be seen as part of the development agenda, recognising that a growing economy can only thrive with a healthy population.

The full report, related presentations and speaker videos can be accessed at the Wellcome Trust’s intellectual property page.

Image credit: anandKrish16/iStockphoto.

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