Patent law overrides would not expand access to drugs for low-income nations, opinion piece says
The United States’ insistence in World Trade Organisation talks that patent overrides for low-income nations only apply to drugs to fight specific diseases, such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, is one instance in which “the United States is right, while our usual allies … are wrong,” John Calfee, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, writes in a Washington Times opinion piece.
Advocates of the plan being considered – which mandates some patent protections be relaxed to allow low-income nations access to drugs – have “fallen for a simplistic argument,” Calfee writes. Although proponents of the plan say it is “better to sacrifice a little profit and help the sick poor,” Calfee argues that “cheaper drugs tend to get trans-shipped to destinations where prices are higher,” and that low-cost drugs “arouse envy” in nations paying full prices.
According to Calfee, patents and prices are “usually not even the same problem”; instead, he states that health care infrastructures must improve. “Until these nations get rudimentary health care markets, rule of law and honest governments, drug prices will remain largely irrelevant,” he writes. In lieu of dropping patent law in some countries, the international community should “fac[e] the fact that the anti-patent approach to improving public health has failed and needs to be replaced with patent protection and a willingness to buy the cures that research creates” (Calfee, Washington Times, 1/28).