Pharmaceutical patents and access to essential medicines in sub-Saharan Africa

Zinatul Ashiqin Zainol, Latifah Amin, Kamaruzaman Jusoff, Md. Anowar Zahid, Frank Akpoviri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) has reawakened old arguments over the impact of the intellectual property (IP) system on public access to essential medicines. As used here, essential medicines are those needed in symptom management, palliative care, and in the treatment of infections, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), malaria, tuberculosis, and sleeping sickness in places like sub-Saharan Africa. Some argue that patents will further inhibit access to these medicines in sub-Saharan Africa. Others, however, argue the opposite. The latter maintain that patent protection under TRIPS can promote the growth of the pharmaceutical industry in places like sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, they assert that pharmaceutical patents are not responsible for the limited access to essential medicines in sub-Saharan Africa. Instead, they trace the problem of access to non-patent factors, such as poverty, the lack of supportive infrastructure, and poor governance. This paper set out to assess these contrasting arguments, with a view to determining the actual impact that pharmaceutical patents maybe having on access to essential medicines in sub-Saharan Africa. Keyword search of electronic databases was conducted, in addition to a review of relevant literature from print sources. A manual analysis then followed. It was found that, rather than a single set of factors, both patent and non patent factors combine to inhibit access to essential medicines in sub-Saharan Africa. It is imperative for sub-Saharan African countries to review current tariff and taxation policies, take steps to improve the supply of vital infrastructure, and strengthen their overall healthcare systems. They should also ensure that their IP systems are supportive of public healthcare needs. Equally important, is that TRIPS and the IP system should be more supportive of sub-Saharan Africa's struggle to bear its disease burden, rather than focusing narrowly on profit maximisation for pharmaceutical companies. Sub-Saharan Africa also needs increased international financing, private-public collaboration in research, and the sharing of benefits in order to cater effectively for the health needs of its citizens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12376-12388
Number of pages13
JournalAfrican Journal of Biotechnology
Volume10
Issue number58
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2011

Fingerprint

Patents
Africa South of the Sahara
patents
Sub-Saharan Africa
Intellectual Property
medicine
drugs
intellectual property rights
Pharmaceutical Preparations
Ownership
infrastructure
health services
Government Financing
profit maximization
Delivery of Health Care
World Trade Organization
tariffs
burden of disease
trypanosomiasis
Taxes

Keywords

  • Access
  • Essential medicines
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS)
  • Malaria
  • Patents
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Sub-saharanafrica
  • Trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

Cite this

Pharmaceutical patents and access to essential medicines in sub-Saharan Africa. / Zainol, Zinatul Ashiqin; Amin, Latifah; Jusoff, Kamaruzaman; Zahid, Md. Anowar; Akpoviri, Frank.

In: African Journal of Biotechnology, Vol. 10, No. 58, 30.09.2011, p. 12376-12388.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Zainol, Zinatul Ashiqin ; Amin, Latifah ; Jusoff, Kamaruzaman ; Zahid, Md. Anowar ; Akpoviri, Frank. / Pharmaceutical patents and access to essential medicines in sub-Saharan Africa. In: African Journal of Biotechnology. 2011 ; Vol. 10, No. 58. pp. 12376-12388.
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