Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice
[Accessed 8 Dec 2018]
| 4 December 2018
Patent challenges in the procurement and supply of generic new essential medicines and lessons from HIV in the southern African development community (SADC) region.
Authors: Ellen F. M. ‘t Hoen, Tapiwanashe Kujinga and Pascale Boulet
High medicines prices increasingly pose challenges for universal access to treatments of communicable and non-communicable diseases. New essential medicines are often patent-protected which sustains high prices in many countries, including in low- and middle-income countries. To respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the late nineties and to increase access to antiretroviral treatment, certain flexibilities contained in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS flexibilities) have been clarified and in some respects strengthened at the global level. They have been applied by a number of countries to ensure access to lower-priced generic medicines to treat HIV/AIDS. Governments in the South African Development Community (SADC) have also used TRIPS flexibilities to gain access to lower-priced generic medicines. This paper documents 15 instances of the use of TRIPS flexibilities by eight SADC Member States during the period 2001–2016. Of those, six concerned least developed countries (LDCs) that declared non-enforcement of pharmaceutical patents pursuant to a new LDC transition provision. All instances occurred in the context of medicines procurement for HIV treatment. Such flexibilities can, however, also be used to overcome patent barriers to gain access to generic medicines for other diseases, including NCDs. The SADC, being a regional bloc with over 50% least developed country Members, can make use of the regional exception, a TRIPS flexibility that facilitates the production or procurement of generic medicines to the benefit of the entire region. SADC’s Pharmaceutical Business Plan proposes strategies for increased collaboration and pooled procurement of medicines.