New Strategies To Improve Developing Countries’ Access To Low-Cost Generic Drugs Needed, Experts Say

New strategies that ensure developing countries have access to low-cost generic medicines and encourage innovation are needed, according to experts who attended a recent meeting sponsored by the WHO, World Intellectual Property Organization, and World Trade Organization (WTO) that addressed growing concern that strict intellectual property protections are limiting access to low-cost generic medicines, BMJ News reports.

Although the purchase of generic medicines could slash costs for developing countries, “[m]ore recently, both the procurement and production of lower priced generic products have been made even more difficult by yet another trend: the globalisation of patent protection,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in an address to the meeting. “Health officials attending the meeting said that they were concerned that the stricter enforcement of patents could limit the number of generic drugs being made in India. It could also limit the export by China of raw materials used to manufacture generic drugs in India,” according to BMJ News.

WHO, WTO and the World Intellectual Property Organization “are working together to improve access to information on the patent status of health products worldwide by developing global databases to support health officials in making purchasing decisions and in drawing up drug treatment guidelines,” BMJ News continues. The current WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, which is scheduled to be updated next month, contains about 355 drugs, of which 5 to 6 percent are patent protected “in some way,” according to BMJ News.

The article also includes quotes by Zafa Mirza, coordinator at WHO’s department of public health, innovation, and intellectual property (Zarocostas, 2/22).

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