Finding a Healthy Balance: Evaluating Models for Change to International Intellectual Property Laws Affecting Global Access to Medicine and Realisation of the Human Right to Health

Genevieve Wilkinson


Human rights have been diffused by waves of globalisation that also swell the economic forces of trade liberalisation so that they include diverse multilateral regimes such as the international intellectual property system (TRIPS). This article considers this system and identifies problems with TRIPS and the way it affects individuals’ ability to access medicine and consequently to realise the human right to health. The case studies of India, Thailand and Mozambique demonstrate that the existing TRIPS system is insufficient for progressive realisation of the human right to health and enable us to formulate criteria for a better system. The criteria include an ability to balance providing consumers with essential medicine and innovators, often multinational corporations, with incentives, so that they continue to develop medicine to address health needs The article proposes a global taxation body that requires States to contribute to a fund which oversees the distribution of essential medicine by streamlining and enhancing existing aid and research and development projects. It creates a multi-stakeholder forum to facilitate this work and encourages States to work with multi-national corporations. If intergovernmental organisations, Civil Society and the media coordinate to overcome obstacles to the adoption and implementation of this model, it can create a feasible balance between competing interests to develop an intellectual property system which enhances the implementation of the human right to health.

Published online: 11 December 2017


health; evaluation; intellectual property; human rights; access to medicine

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