Patents and access to drugs in developing countries: An ethical analysis

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More than a third of the world's population has no access to essential
drugs. More than half of this group of people live in the poorest regions
of Africa and Asia. Several factors determine the accessibility of drugs in
developing countries. Hardly any medicines for tropical diseases are being
developed, but even existing drugs are often not available to the patients
who need them.
One of the important determinants of access to drugs is the working of
the patent system. This paper first maps out some facts about the global
patent regime that has emerged as a consequence of the conclusion of the
WTO-TRIPs Agreement in 1994. Attempts to construct a moral justification
of the patent system have been based on three grounds: natural
rights, distributive justice, and utilitarian arguments. This paper examines
to what extent and on which grounds drug patents can be justified.
The final section looks at the so-called 'Doha Declaration on the TRIPs
Agreement and Public Health', which was adopted by the WTO Ministerial
Conference two years ago, recognising the primacy of public health
over the interests of patent proprietors.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Bioethics Reader - Editors' Choice
EditorsRuth Chadwick, Helga Kuhse, Udo Schüklenk, Peter Singer
Place of PublicationOxford
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)978-1-4051-7522-7
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Ruth Chadwick, Helga Kuhse, Udo Schüklenk, Peter Singer


  • patents
  • drugs
  • developing countries
  • access to health


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