Do Patents for Antiretroviral Drugs Constrain Access to Aids Treatment in Africa?
University of Ottawa - Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine; University of Ottawa - Common Law Section
International Intellectual Property Institute
August 3, 2010
Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 286, pp. 1886-1892
Public debate has recently focused on the issue of improving access to AIDS treatment in poor, severely affected countries, such as those of sub-Saharan Africa. International intellectual property law and pharmaceutical patents have taken central stage in this debate and it is a live question whether patents on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) in Africa are responsible for blocking access to life-saving treatment for the 25 million Africans who suffer HIV infection.
We present in this study the current patent status of 15 ARVs in 53 African countries. Using a survey methodology, we find that these ARVs are patented in few African countries (median = 3, mode = 0 countries); and that in countries where ARV patents exist in 2001, it is generally only a small subset of ARVs that are patented (median and mode = 4 ARVs). The observed scarcity of patents cannot be explained by a lack of patent laws, since most African countries have offered patent protection for pharmaceuticals for many years or decades. Further, in this particular case, the geographic mosaic of patent coverage does not appear to correlate with ARV treatment access in Africa, which is poor everywhere, suggesting that patents and patent law are not generally de jure barriers to treatment access. We conclude that a variety of de facto barriers are more responsible for impeding access to ARV treatment, such as but not limited to the impoverishment of the African market; the high cost of ARV treatment; national regulatory requirements for medicines; tariffs and sales taxes; and above all, a lack of sufficient international financial aid to fund ARV treatment. We consider these findings in light of policies to enhance ARV treatment access in poor countries.
Note: This is a description of the article and not the actual abstract.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 7
Date posted: November 21, 2002 ; Last revised: May 25, 2014
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