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2 - Intellectual property and medicine: Towards global health equity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Tzen Wong
Public Interest Intellectual Property Advisors
Graham Dutfield
University of Leeds
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The past thirty years have witnessed an explosion in the development of new biomedical and genomics technologies and other health innovations, advances in medical imaging, an evolution in information technologies and connectivity, as well as significant progress towards technological convergence between the North and some areas of the Global South. Countries such as Brazil, China and India have developed innovation capabilities in many areas including medicine. These developments bring considerable hope for long-term improvements in human well-being. However, this progress has not been realized to any great extent in many developing countries, and access to quality health care and related products and services is still lacking.

In poverty dynamics, limited access to health care and relevant technological progress stems from a combination of factors. These include the lack of public financing for health care infrastructure, along with the lack of economic incentives for the private sector to invest in such infrastructure and to provide medicines (particularly for diseases that are not endemic in higher-income countries), inadequate or inappropriate regulatory frameworks, and lack of awareness of legal options relating to intellectual property (IP). These factors are coupled in many developing countries with insufficient scientific, technological and industrial capabilities, including the inability to fully exploit technologies towards meeting users’ needs. Many studies reveal, moreover, the strong relationship between poverty and disease burden (McCarthy, Wolf & Wu 2000; Marmot 2005, pp. 1099–1104; Mathers & Loncar 2006; Roffe, Tansey & Vivas-Eugui 2006).

Intellectual Property and Human Development
Current Trends and Future Scenarios
, pp. 60 - 102
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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