Access to medicines

Patent Opposition Database

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Millions of people in the developing world do not have access to the medicines they need because they – or their government – cannot afford them.

There are many reasons why people lack access to essential medicines, but one of the major barriers is the high price of drugs.

One of the contributing factors to high drug prices is patents. New drugs, diagnostic tests and vaccines needed to treat, detect or prevent a whole range of diseases are patented.

Patents prevent the open competition that could drive prices down to lower, affordable levels.

Patents are by no means the only barrier to accessing life-saving medicines, but they can play a significant, or even determinant, role in that they grant the patent holder a monopoly on a drug for a number of years. The patent holder’s freedom to set prices has resulted in drugs being unaffordable for the majority of people living in developed countries.

The result is that, all too often, life-saving drugs are priced out of the reach of people in developing countries. Millions of people are, in effect, too poor to be treated.