Access to Medicines, BRICS Alliances, and Collective Action

50 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2008 Last revised: 18 Jul 2014

See all articles by Peter K. Yu

Peter K. Yu

Texas A&M University School of Law


Most discussions on the public health implications of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights focus on the right of less developed countries to issue compulsory licenses and the need for these countries to exploit flexibilities within the TRIPs Agreement. However, there are other means by which countries can enhance access to essential medicines. To provide an illustration of these other means, this article explores the possibility for greater collaboration among the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and between these countries and other less developed countries.

This article begins by offering a brief discussion of each BRICS country in the area of international intellectual property protection. It advances the hypothesis that, if the BRICS countries are willing to join together to form a coalition, it is very likely that the resulting coalition will precipitate a negotiation deadlock similar to the historic stalemate between developed and less developed countries before the negotiation of the TRIPs Agreement.

The article, nevertheless, questions whether the BRICS countries can build a sustained coalition in light of their very different historical backgrounds; the divergent levels of political, social, economic, and cultural developments; and the well-documented historical failures for less developed countries to build or maintain effective coalitions. Taking these challenges and potential hurdles into account, this article contends that it may be more realistic for less developed countries to enter into alliances with one or more of the BRICS countries.

The article then highlights the role that the BRICS coalition or partial BRICS alliances can play in the international intellectual property regime. It discusses four coordination strategies through which less developed countries can strengthen their collective bargaining position, influence negotiation outcomes, and promote effective and democratic decisionmaking in the international intellectual property regime. It concludes with a discussion of the various challenges confronting the creation and maintenance of partial BRICS alliances.

Suggested Citation

Yu, Peter K., Access to Medicines, BRICS Alliances, and Collective Action. American Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. 3, pp. 345-94, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Peter K. Yu (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX Tarrant County 76102
United States


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