Patents, diseases and access to health: exploring global/local networks of intellectual property law in African public health
Dr Emilie Cloatre - Lecturer in Law, University of Kent www.kent.ac.uk/law/people/staff/academic/cloatre.html
ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum
ESRC Genomics Policy and Research ForumThe University of EdinburghCollege of Humanities and Social ScienceSt John's LandHolyrood RoadEdinburgh EH8 8AQ
Tel: 0131 651 4747
The relationship between intellectual property and access to health in developing countries has been at the centre of intense controversies since the mid-1990s, and the adoption of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement.
In this paper I discuss the role and influence that pharmaceutical patents and global intellectual property rules have on access to medication in sub-Saharan Africa. I argue that these need to be explored through questioning the direct and indirect ways in which patents have participated in reshaping diseases, health priorities, treatment and access to health in ways that are sometimes overlooked – and hence require the development of new conceptual tools. I base my argument on empirical work carried out in Ghana and Djibouti, unpacking some of the ways in which the global/local networks of intellectual property are expressed in both countries. In so doing, I show how patents circulate in a variety of ways, sometimes unexpected and often discreet, from international forums to local practices, through discourses and materials. I question how their multi-layered deployment influences which medicines reach local networks and, ultimately, patients.