Examination of Pharmaceutical Patents from a Public Health Perspective in the Arab Region

Organized by ICTSD, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Health Organisation (WHO)

Cairo, Egypt, 14-15 April 2009

Description | Agenda | Documents


The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) held a Dialogue on the “Examination of Pharmaceutical Patents: Developing Public Health Perspectives” on the 14-15 April 2009 in Cairo, Egypt. Participants included government, industry, IO, and NGO representatives and experts on the subject.

The event attempted to address the broader issue of developing criteria for the grant of drug patents, specifically balancing protection of intellectual property rights and concerns of access to health. The consultation focused on the various types of claims that subsist in the context of pharmaceutical patents. The event also examined the mechanisms for examination of pharmaceutical patents from a public health perspective.

There has been increasing interest about how international trade agreements and intellectual property rights can impact on access to medicines. The interaction between trade, IP, and access to medicines has led to the adoption of the Doha Ministerial Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. This Declaration affirmed that the TRIPS Agreement should be interpreted and implemented in a manner that allows for countries to take measures that protect public health and promote access to medicines.

Patents, and IPRs, are often said to promote innovation and R&D of new medicines, but evidence shows that patents on genuinely new pharmaceutical products is limited. The majority of patents are granted to cover modifications to existing drugs. Similarly, the majority of pharmaceutical R&D today focuses on variations, not on the development of new entities. Changes regarding production and patenting of medicines will have large effects on the pharmaceutical industry and patent system.

Participants placed the discussion of patents in the context of public health and specifically the balance between IP protection and access to medicine. Also discussed were TRIPS versus local flexibilities, and typical claims made during patenting of pharmaceutical products. Experiences and problems in Developed Countries were presented and participants also looked at mechanisms that could enhance the examination of pharmaceutical patenting. The mechanisms include the opportunity for pre- and post-grant opposition to patents and rules and procedures of the examination of patent-applicants’ products.

© ICTSD 2004 - Last Update: 05-Oct-2009