Workshop on Assessing the Impact of New Patent Standards on the Price of Medicines

Dialogue organised by ICTSD in partnership with CINPE and WHO

El Centro Internacional de Política Económica para el Desarrollo Sostenible (CINPE) de la Universidad Nacional,
Costa Rica, 27-29 May 2007

Description | Agenda | Participants | Documentation | Espanol


At the bilateral and regional levels, the number of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) is rapidly increasing. In many cases, these accords include comprehensive chapters on intellectual property (IP) that go beyond the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). These so-called TRIPS-plus provisions question the use of flexibilities and exceptions for safeguarding certain public interests. In the field of health, these provisions could negatively affect the supply of pharmaceutical products and ultimately the price and availability of medicines, particularly in developing countries. Nevertheless, developing countries are often willing to commit to stronger intellectual property rules as a quid pro quo for concessions in other areas-most notably, preferential access to developed countries' markets for agricultural and manufactured products. Whether or not this bargain holds up is an empirical question.

However, it would appear that the acceptance of FTAs has often been determined by ad-hoc assessments of perceived benefits and costs, as well as by broader political considerations, rather than on the basis of empirical assessment. These types of cost-benefit analyses have a tendency to overlook the actual impact of the TRIPS Agreement and the potential impact of new TRIPS-plus provisions, such as on public health.

To facilitate understanding of the impact of the new IP provisions in FTAs, ICTSD, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the World Bank Institute (WBI) have undertaken a joint project to develop a common methodological framework for conducting national impact assessments of TRIPS-plus standards, as they affect pharmaceutical products. The objective is to offer guidance to governments (e.g., trade and health ministries), research institutes as well as civil society organizations, in empirically evaluating the effects of these new IP obligations.

To date, the Project has developed partial equilibrium models for conducting the impact assessments. It plans to test the models in Costa Rica, which will serve two related objectives. First, the research will ultimately assess the impact of TRIPS-plus standards for Costa Rica's pharmaceutical market. As the Government of Costa Rica has until May 2008 to join the FTA with the US, the study will help to illuminate the possible consequences of such a move. Second, the research will inform the development of the ICTSD-WHO-WBI methodological guide. In particular, the researchers in Costa Rica will provide feedback to the core project team on data availability, difficulties in implementing the partial equilibrium models described above, and evidence on structural parameters to be applied in the models. For more information on the project, please visit: http://www.iprsonline.org/unctadictsd/dialogue/2006-07-31/2006-07-31_desc.htm

In this context, ICTSD has organised a workshop in Costa Rica on the partial equilibrium models. To this end, it will:

  • present the project to researchers, government officials, and other stakeholders;
  • describe the international IP system and measures affecting drug prices;
  • discuss data requirements and availability in Costa Rica; and
  • provide training on the use of the model.

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