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