Lancet‘s recent editorial, “Undermining TRIPS: protectionism at its worst”, brings to light two international campaigns that will likely be of great signficance for the future of poor countries’ access to medicines. The campaigns, led by Doctors Without Borders and host of other organizations, are working to uphold the rules of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement that allow, in certain situations, essential medicines in developing countries to be distributed at affordable prices. This agreement is currently threatened by large pharmaceutical companies that are taking steps to expand their rights to patent their medicines. Of particular urgency right now is a case pursued by Novartis, a Swiss company, against the Indian government, and a case led by Merck against the Thai Government.
These are important and complicated cases with implications for the future of free trade, public health, and human rights. Here is a list of important links—certainly not exhaustive—to provide background on the issue:
Novartis & India
"Novartis Challenges Indian safeguards"
Merck et al. & Thailand
Thai Health Ministry To Issue Compulsory License for Merck's HIV/AIDS Drug Efavirenz
MSF: Open Letter to Condaleezza Rice
Intellectual Property & Free Trade
“What are Intellectual Property Rights?”
The Doha Declaration
Declaration on TRIPS agreement and Public Health
Listen to Sangeeta Shashikant, Researcher for Third World Network in Kuala Lumpur, comment on patents and access to generic medicines.