Medicines

Trade, Intellectual Property rights and Access to Medicines

The implications of trade agreements on public health, and in particular, the impact of the WTO-TRIPS Agreement on access to essential medicines, has been one the most debated topics in the recent years.

In this context, the World Health Assembly (WHA) adopted a resolution in May 1996, requesting WHO to report on the impact of the agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO) with respect to national drug policies and essential drugs. Since then, successive resolutions of the World Health Assemblies have requested WHO to undertake work that ensures that its medicines strategy addresses the important issue of impact of international trade agreements on public health and access to medicines. In 2003, the WHA expressed concerns about access to medicines in developing countries and the implications of the current patent protection system, and urged member States to adapt national legislation to use to the full the flexibilities contained in the TRIPS Agreement. In 2004, Member States were further encouraged to ensure that bilateral trade agreements take into account the flexibilities contained in the WTO TRIPS Agreement as recognized by the Doha Ministerial Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.

Consistent with the above mandate, WHO seeks to provide appropriate technical assistance and country support to Member States to promote implementation of the TRIPS Agreement that is consistent with the protection of public health and promotion of access to medicines. This work is guided by WHO's policy perspectives, which place public health and access to medicines as priorities, consistent with the basic tenets of the Doha Ministerial Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.

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