Tuesday 6 May 2008

Darren Olivier

Africa: Failing Infrastructure Renders Compulsory Licensing Pointless

Thompson Ayodele writes, in a well compiled piece, that the focus on IPRs as the main contributing cause to lack of access to life saving drugs in Africa is mis-directed... "that even if medicine were available for free, as it often is in poor nations, dysfunctional institutions and personnel ensure that the needy can't access it. Despite unprecedented quantities of monetary aid to the ministries of health of many African countries, health systems on the continent have languished." The article further fuels the complex debate on solutions to this very serious problem in Africa, as reported by Afro-IP here, here, here, here and here.

Thompson cites several reasons why, using Nigeria in most examples:

1. nearly all foreign aid must first pass through health ministries before reaching patients. Money is routinely subverted by health officials for private gain;

2. leakage of drugs from the supply chain due to rewards on the black market; and

3. other forms of corruption including mismanagement of funds at the local level, employee absenteeism, extortion of patients by staff members and the abuse of procurement contracts for hospital supplies.

The article cites failed examples of compulsory licensing in Thailand to further backup his view that "as long as healthcare delivery remains in the hands of dysfunctional governments, the health of the poor in developing nations will never improve. Aid groups and policymakers must instead enlist the help and expertise of the private sector which he believes will reduce corruption and insert much needed competition."

The full article can be found here.

Thompson Ayodele is the Executive Director of Initiative for Public Policy Analysis based in Lagos.

Darren Olivier

Darren Olivier

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9 May 2008 at 09:25 delete

I agree that patents are often blamed for high prices, failure to deliver, etc. in situations where patents play no role whatsoever in the problem.

However, this does not mean that the debate around patents and access to drugs should stop.

My own experience in South Africa is that, due to SA being a non-examining coutry, there are many patents that have a far broader scope than their US or European counterparts and are hopelessly invalid. However, our court's approach overwhelmingly favours patentees (despite their patents not having passed any examination), and revocation/invalidity defences are extremely difficult and costly.

This results directly in few challenges to dodgy drug patents, and a therefore a rather limited range of generic drugs on the market.