How Can Lower-Income Countries Access COVID-19 Medicines Without Destroying the Patent System? The National Exhaustion Solution

Eldakak, Ahmed

Abstract

Many scholars argued that improving access to medicine requires major amendments to the patent system, which is structured according to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. This article argues that the argument is not necessarily true. Amending Article 6 of the TRIPS Agreement to adopt a national exhaustion rule for pharmaceutical patents would be sufficient to achieve a considerable improvement in access to medicine while simultaneously strengthening patent protection. This proposal encourages the pharmaceutical industry to adopt a price discrimination policy whereby Pharma would lower medicine prices in the lower-income countries. Accordingly, global access to new medicines such as COVID-19 medicines could be increased as these countries have the majority of poor people. At the same time, Pharma can continue to sell the same medicine in higher-income countries at higher prices, generating sufficient profits to incentivize research and development.

Keyword(s)

Access to Medicine; Pharmaceutical Patents; TRIPS Agreement; Exhaustion; Pharma; Parallel Trade; Price Discrimination; Arbitrage; Generic Medicine; Patented Medicine; EU Exhaustion Policy

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