Formula for Fairness: Patient rights before patent rights

Publication date

05 Jul 2001


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The agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) - the new twenty-year patent regime that the World Trade Organization (WTO) requires all member states to implement - is likely to keep prices of vital new medicines higher than they otherwise would be and thereby exacerbate the vast health disparities between rich and poor countries. Meanwhile, accusations of insensitivity to the plight of the world's poor have increasingly put the pharmaceutical industry on the defensive. Against this background, Pfizer is a natural subject for Oxfam's second company briefing paper. As the industry's largest company, what it says and does is highly influential both within the industry and beyond. Yet, it has consistently lobbied for stronger patent protection, including TRIPS, while denying in a meeting with Oxfam the obvious negative implications for poor people's access to life-saving drugs.