Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research
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Year : 2007  |  Volume : 126  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 390-406

Poverty, health & intellectual property rights with special reference to India

Intellectual Property Rights Unit, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
K Satyanarayana
Intellectual Property Rights Unit, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 18032814

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This paper examines the nexus between poverty and global health with specific focus on IPR protection and attempts to highlight the current global endeavours to overcome barriers to access to medicines for diseases of the poor. The number of very poor people in the world has increased by 10.4 per cent between 1987 and 2001 to 2735 million. India is now home to the largest number of millionaires in the developing countries. But over 800 million Indians who still survive on Rs 20.0 (US$0.5) a day, and rural poverty is on the rise. The link between poverty and health is well established with the underprivileged are more vulnerable to major health risks due to poor nutrition, inadequate access to clean drinking water, sanitation, exposure to indoor smoke, etc. all of which contribute to the huge and growing burden of disease in the poor countries. The global disease burden is not just huge but growing: over 10 million children die of preventable conditions including vaccine-preventable diseases, about 14 million are killed by infectious diseases every year, 90-95 per cent in poor countries. An estimated third of global population has limited or no access to essential medicines. While the number of poor and unhealthy is growing, Government expenditure on health is dwindling. Many of the diseases of the poor require new medicines and none are forthcoming as there is little R&D for these infections. There are several barriers to access to existing and the newly discovered drugs. One major reason is the general lack of interest by the pharma industry to discover new medicines for diseases of the poor due to very limited market in developing countries. In addition, global intellectual property rights (IPR) protection regimes like the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) are considered a major obstacle for the poor access to medicines. There have been some global initiatives on the need to improve affordability and accessibility of medicines. Some strategies to promote R&D on diseases of the poor such as Prize Fund Model, the Medical R&D Treaty and steps to invoke flexibilities in TRIPS read with Doha Declaration are discussed. Health of the poor is a global problem that requires global solutions with global participation and commitment.

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