Should Access to Medicines and TRIPS Flexibilities Be Limited to Specific Diseases?

22 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2008 Last revised: 17 Feb 2014


From the perspective of public health, limiting access programs and TRIPS flexibilities to particular diseases would be quite dangerous and unnecessary. Dangerous because the diseases of the world's rich and poor countries are converging, including non-communicative diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and depression. Radically cheaper medicines for these conditions could significantly improve health in LMICs. Limitation is also unnecessary because proven tools can be deployed to preserve high-income markets while LMICs pursue equitable flexibilities.

To date, the important global legal texts retain broad application to all relevant diseases, but the some parties continue to propose disease-specific limitations, most recently in the World Health Organization's Intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (the WHO IGWG). The WHO IGWG's task is to distill the WHO CIPIH Report into a global strategy and plan of action. This article hopes to influence the final text of the IGWG Global Strategy, finding that disease-specific limitations on access programs and TRIPS flexibilities are inappropriate in markets for medicines, but disease-specific programs are important in markets for neglected disease innovation.

Keywords: The WHO IGWG, the WHO CIPIH, World Health Organization's Commission on Innovation, Intellectual Property and Public Health, Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), TRIPS flexibilities

JEL Classification: I11, I18, K29, O34

Suggested Citation

Outterson, Kevin, Should Access to Medicines and TRIPS Flexibilities Be Limited to Specific Diseases?. American Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. 34, 2008, Boston Univ. School of Law Working Paper No. 08-06, Available at SSRN:

Kevin Outterson (Contact Author)

Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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