“It is well understood,” this paper from Yale’s Global Health Justice Partnership begins, “that patent protection increases the price of medicines and thereby decreases access to them.”
The result: The rich really are different. They can have more health. It is a truth, this paper points out, that runs counter to the right to health built into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But too often developing countries, fearing economic consequences if they prioritize health over intellectual property, enforce patent protections that keep life-saving drugs out of reach. The authors of the paper, the product of the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership, a joint initiative of Yale Law School and Yale School of Public Health, seek to counter the weight given to intellectual property rights with human rights laws, conventions, and arguments. An exploration of one of the landmarks of the once uncharted intersection of health and human rights, A Human Rights Approach to Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines also is a handbook for treatment access advocates. In addition to a delineation of arguments against international trade laws that impede access to treatment, it includes appendices of relevant cases and documents.
The release of the report coincides with the South Africa government’s release of an intellectual property policy draft that would tighten criteria that has allowed medicine patents to be extended repeatedly, keeping prices on those medicines high. The South African Treatment Action Campaign and Médecins Sans Frontières which had called for the South African government to amend its patent laws, welcomed the draft release, saying it offered “numerous recommendations to prevent the patent system from having a detrimental impact on public health.”