The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Intellectual Property and Medicines: Differential Outcomes for Developed and Developing Countries

Lima, Peru. Photo by Barbara Zandoval via Unsplash.

Ever since the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) set a new global benchmark for intellectual property (IP) rights in the 1990s, civil society groups have raised concerns about the impact of trade agreements on access to medicines. One such trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), was a proposed regional trade agreement involving 12 countries from around the Pacific Rim. While the agreement ultimately did not go into effect, it included a suite of IP provisions intended to expand and extend pharmaceutical company exclusivities on medicines. It drew wide criticism for including such provisions in an agreement that involved developing countries because of the effect on delaying the introduction of low-cost medicines. In a move by several of the countries to reinvigorate the agreement without the United States, the proponents retained as much as possible of the original text, including IP provisions.

A journal article in Global Social Policy by Deborah Gleeson, Joel Lexchin, Ruth Lopert and Burcu Kilic presents a comparative analysis of the impact that the final 2016 TPP IP chapter could be expected to have on the intellectual property laws and regulatory regimes for medicines in TPP countries. Drawing on the published literature, it traces the likely impact on access to medicines. The authors focus on the differential impact on regulatory frameworks for developed and developing nations and explore the political and economic dynamics that contributed to these differential outcomes.

The authors find that if the TPP were to enter into force in its current form, the developing countries that signed the agreement would have to implement TRIPS-Plus IP provisions, delaying access to affordable generic medicines for their populations. Developing countries would be well advised to carefully weigh the consequences of accepting these outcomes and must plan carefully for implementation to ensure they mitigate the effects as much as possible.

Read the Journal Article