Trade Agreements, Patents, and Drug Prices: Continuing the Debate

10 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2017 Last revised: 25 May 2017

See all articles by Amy Kapczynski

Amy Kapczynski

Yale University - Law School

Bhaven N. Sampat

Columbia University - Mailman School of Public Health

Ken Shadlen

London School of Economics and Political Science

Date Written: March 15, 2017

Abstract

The upward-ratcheting of patent protection through trade agreements has generated significant concerns about potential effects on prices of drugs and access to medicines in developing countries. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) included even more extensive pharmaceutical patent provisions than any before. While President Trump withdrew the US as a signatory to the TPP, the potential for new trade agreements to raise the same set of concerns generated by the TPP remains high. Previous work assessing the TPP argued that new data on pharmaceutical expenditures (and other measures) from countries with recent trade agreements with the U.S. indicated that concerns about pharmaceutical patent protection and drug prices are overblown and it may be time to move on from these debates. Here we argue that the analysis supporting these claims is misleading because it fails to look at the right drugs at the right points in time, overlooks the temporal dimensions of implementation of provisions in previous trade agreements, and ignores the broader context in which trade agreements are negotiated and implemented. Much more empirical work is needed to understand the impact of previous trade agreements, and the effects of stronger patent protections in developing countries on innovation, access, and prices. Some of the crucial analyses may not be possible until the provisions in the agreements take full effect, which could take some time especially in developing countries where patenting is relatively new.

Keywords: pharmaceuticals, patents, trade agreements, TRIPS, TPP

JEL Classification: O1, O2, O3

Suggested Citation

Kapczynski, Amy and Sampat, Bhaven N. and Shadlen, Kenneth C., Trade Agreements, Patents, and Drug Prices: Continuing the Debate (March 15, 2017). Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 572. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2933574 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2933574

Amy Kapczynski

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Bhaven N. Sampat (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Mailman School of Public Health ( email )

600 West 168th St. 6th Floor
New York, NY 10032
United States

Kenneth C. Shadlen

London School of Economics and Political Science ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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