Impacts of Intellectual Property Provisions in Trade Treaties on Access to Medicine in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review

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Intellectual property (IP) provisions in free trade agreements (FTAs) ensure protection for the creation or invention of artistic works and goods, the creation or invention of which sometimes required, as in the case of medicines, high sunk cost in the form of investment in research and development. However, this protection creates a monopoly market for medicines. For example, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) can negatively impact access to medicines. A number of studies have been carried out to quantify the size of the effect of stronger IP protections on access to medicines.

A journal article in Globalization and Health by Md. Deen Islam, Warren A. Kaplan, Danielle Trachtenberg, Rachel Thrasher, Kevin P. Gallagher and Veronika J. Wirtz presents a systematic review describing evaluations of the impacts of IP provisions in trade treaties on access to medicine in low and middle income countries.

Through examining both ex-ante and ex-post methods, the authors find an increase in price and a decrease in consumer welfare with imposition of intellectual property protection in trade agreements. The main differences between these studies are in the magnitude of the changes, and both ex-ante and ex-post methods have advantages and limitations. The magnitude of the effect on variables such as price, medicines expenditure and consumer welfare differ depending on a host of factors, most importantly domestic policies to counteract the potential negative effects on access.

Read the Journal Article