Promoting access to medical technologies and innovation: Intersections between public health, intellectual property and trade
Medical technologies – medicines, vaccines and medical devices – are essential for public health. Access to essential medicines and inadequate research on neglected diseases have been a major concern for many years. More recently, the focus of health policy debate has broadened to consider how to promote innovation and how to ensure equitable access to all vital medical technologies.
Today’s health policy-makers need a clear understanding, both of the innovation processes that lead to new technologies and of the ways in which these technologies are disseminated through functional health systems. This study seeks to reinforce the understanding of the interplay between the distinct policy domains of health, trade and intellectual property, and of how they affect medical innovation and access to medical technologies. It captures a broad range of experience and data in dealing with the interplay between intellectual property, trade rules and the dynamics of access to, and innovation in, medical technologies. A collaborative effort by the WHO, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization draws together the three Secretariats’ respective areas of expertise. For WHO the study is an important milestone in the context of the implementation of the Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property.
The study is intended to inform ongoing technical cooperation activities undertaken by the three organizations and to support policy discussions. Based on many years of field experience in technical cooperation, the study has been prepared to serve the needs of policy-makers who seek a comprehensive presentation of the full range of issues, as well as lawmakers, government officials, delegates to international organizations, non-governmental organizations and researchers.
The study is a sequel to the joint study by the WHO and the WTO Secretariats on WTO agreements and public health published in 2002, which remains a useful resource, given that it covers a broader range of issues linking trade and public health.