Compulsory Licenses and Right to Health Litigation
Crucial right of countries for expanding access to medicines
Countries may exercise their right to issue compulsory licenses to expand access to medicines that are still protected by patents. A
compulsory license is a special mechanism that authorizes a government to
introduce generic competition for a patented product in exchange for royalty
payments to the patent holder. Various countries have issued compulsory licenses on to expand patient access to medicines, ranging from HIV to cancer treatments. Unfortunately, due to various international and domestic pressures, this right is under-utilized by countries whose citizens would benefit.
Litigating the right to health
Human rights law and its relationship to intellectual property protection and access
More than 100 countries have incorporated a right to health into
their constitutions, and 160 have acceded to this right through their
international treaty obligations. And, in
the last fifteen years, domestic courts have gone far to safeguard this right:
courts have not only granted plaintiffs access to specific medications, but
also commanded governments to make particular medications available to all
citizens. More recently, domestic
courts have also displayed a growing willingness to use human rights laws to
reinterpret and even strike down IP laws that impede access to medications.
A worldwide campaign to expand access to a vital HIV treatment
On November 10, 2011, public health groups in a dozen countries launched a global campaign to challenge Abbott Laboratories’ monopolistic hold on Kaletra (lopinavir+ritonavir), a critical HIV/AIDS medicine. The goal was to spur competition by generic drugmakers and thereby lower the medicine’s price, as well as to free up its components for new and improved combination treatments. The campaign comprises an unprecedented global effort to fight Big Pharma’s political power and improve access to lifesaving medicines.
Campaign in Peru
campaign to obtain a compulsory license on an important and expensive HIV
medication in Peru
November 17, 2014, public health activists in Peru sent a letter to the
Peruvian president, Ollanta Humala, and the Peruvian Ministry of Health
requesting that the president issue a compulsory license on atazanavir, an
important, second-line HIV drug. The grant of a compulsory license on this medication
would save the country 26 million nuevo soles (roughly USD $9 million). Until
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s patent on atazanavir expires in 2019, Peru will spend
over USD $44 million more than it would if it had purchased the generic version
of the drug under a compulsory license. Because atazanavir currently accounts
for 50% of the Peruvian government’s HIV/AIDS budget, these savings would be
extremely valuable: Peru could redirect these funds toward the purchase of
other medications its population cannot afford, new hospital facilities and
equipment, and patient care.
|"Acting in concert around the world, we will fight pharmaceutical monopoly abuses".--Luz Marina Umbasia, attorney for Colombian treatment groups
| "We are launching competition campaigns in many countries so we can work together for access"--Sindi Putri, ITPC Indonesia
||Peruvian civil society groups call on President Humala to issue a compulsory license on atazanavir, an important, second-line HIV medicine.
||"I wish the drug company would lower the price, as I know that the number of people taking Kaletra is growing higher and higher – and there are many more who can’t afford the treatment they need." --Naza of Malaysia's PT Foundation
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