Could international compulsory licensing reconcile tiered pricing of pharmaceuticals with the right to health?
Authors & affiliation
Gorik Ooms, Lisa Forman, Owain D Williams, Peter S Hill
Background: The heads of the Global Fund and the GAVI Alliance have recently promoted the idea of an international tiered pricing framework for medicines, despite objections from civil society groups who fear that this would reduce the leeway for compulsory licenses and generic competition. This paper explores the extent to which an international tiered pricing framework and the present leeway for compulsory licensing can be reconciled, using the perspective of the right to health as defined in international human rights law. Discussion: We explore the practical feasibility of an international tiered pricing and compulsory licensing framework governed by the World Health Organization. We use two simple benchmarks to compare the relative affordability of medicines for governments ? average income and burden of disease ? to illustrate how voluntary tiered pricing practice fails to make medicines affordable enough for low and middle income countries (if compared with the financial burden of the same medicines for high income countries), and when and where international compulsory licenses should be issued in order to allow governments to comply with their obligations to realize the right to health. Summary: An international tiered pricing and compulsory licensing framework based on average income and burden of disease could ease the tension between governments? human rights obligation to provide medicines and governments? trade obligation to comply with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
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