PRA condemns the UNHLP on Access to Medicine as an assault on IP

September 14, 2016
Washington, DC – The Property Rights Alliance (PRA) condemns the new Report by the United Nations Secretary-General’s High Level Panel (UNHLP) on Access to Medicine as an assault on intellectual property rights and the free market economy.
The panel was convened under a flawed premise by the Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon that access to health technologies clashed with “the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law and trade rules”. It is no small wonder then how the panel concluded with equally incoherent recommendations such as negotiations for a binding convention to delink costs of research and development from end prices, advice to governments to streamline procedures for compulsory licensing, and for university research institutions to refrain from protecting their new discoveries.
Stronger intellectual property rights, not weaker, ensure innovation, discovery and access to high quality medicine. For instance, it is only because of the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act which allows universities to own and license inventions created with public funding that U.S. universities continue to patent more inventions than their global peers. Fifty percent of all educational institution patent applications in the world in 2015 came from U.S. universities.   Only recently, as China and other East Asian countries create stronger intellectual property law has that number began to decrease.
The 2016 International Property Rights Index features a case study by Philip Stevens of the Geneva Network highlighting the growth in biopharmaceutical innovation in emerging markets such as China and India precisely because of adoption of the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). Mr. Stevens, a veteran of the World Intellectual Property Organization where he coordinated IP and health issues with the World Trade Organization and World Health Organization, identifies the emergence of niche pharmaceutical industries in middle-income countries when they decide to move from import-substitution and reducing costs as policy objectives, the complete opposite recommended in the UNHLP report.
Today research and innovation take place on a global scale and strong IP rights incentivize knowledge sharing and collaboration between firms. Since TRIPS the top patent filings for India have been pharmaceutical firms, firms that increasingly utilize contracts with international companies or co-development projects with multinational firms. Such firms working with Indian pharmaceutical to produce novel products include Merck & CO Inc., Sun Pharma, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Biocon and Bristol Myers Squibb.

The Property Rights Alliance works with 101 international organizations to promote strong property rights systems around the world. Physical and intellectual property rights are human rights crucial to a prosperous and free society. We fear that adoption of the recommendations in the UNHLP will reverse the steady improvement of property rights in the world and condemn to ruin the emerging pharmaceutical industries in middle-income countries.