WIPO patent committee: Statement of Group B (industrialized countries) at WIPO on discussions of patents and health

The United States, on behalf of Group B (which includes Western European countries, Norway, the United States, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, Israel and the Holy See) presented the following statement opposing the adoption of the African Group/Development Agenda Group on patents and health (in its current forum). In its individual intervention, the Holy See supported the African Group/Development Agenda Group proposal.

17th Session of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents
Patents and Health
Geneva, December 5-9, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Chairman

Group B takes note of document SCP/16/7 on Patents and Health, submitted by the African Group and the Development Agenda Group. The proposal focuses on the perceived flaws in the patent system relating to access to medicines, without acknowledging that a strong patent system promotes innovation. Without this incentive, there would be a significant reduction in available medicines.

96% of medicines on the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List are not protected by patents. Either the patents have expired or patents were not originally obtained. Those medicines on the EML which are no longer protected by patents were originally developed in large part due to the protection afforded to their developers by the patent system. This fact further highlights the large volume of important medicines that were developed under intellectual property protections and that subsequently became available in generic form upon the expiration of the relevant patents.

Although most medicines on the EML are not protected by patents, their availability in many markets is limited. This is particularly true in developing and least developed countries.

Therefore, it is clear that other factors external to patent protection are at play in limiting availability of these medicines. As such, instead of continuing to place blame on the patent system for contributing to the lack of access to medicines, the focus should shift to studying the more relevant factors hindering access in the appropriate fora.

Therefore, Group B cannot support the adoption of SCP/16/7 in its current form. Moreover, the SCP should focus on its core mandate and avoid duplication of work carried out in the other committees.

Finally, Group B welcomes the presentations by the WHO and WTO later this afternoon.