Intellectual Property & Access to Medicine

Trade and patent regimes are prioritizing corporate profits over people’s lives. See how, in this short animation 'Evergreening'. The strength of the ITPC coalition lies in our ability to develop regional and local strategies to challenge trade agreements and patent laws based on the real-life consequences for communities affected by HIV. With the support of ITPC’s global team, these national and regional strategies have the potential to contribute to the renewal of a global trade agenda, with access to essential medicines as a core priority.

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Our programs include:

Challenging national laws and policies in four countries

make-meds-affordableMiddle-income countries (MICs) face a double challenge because of their World Bank economic classification. The global perception that these countries are rich has real and negative repercussions for treatment access. MICs have less access to international funding to support treatment programs in their countries, and pharmaceutical companies extensively patent their products, very often abusively, as they consider them as emerging markets that are able to absorb high prices.

ITPC has spearheaded a consortium to promote community engagement in legislative advocacy and strategic litigation to challenge intellectual property-related barriers to access to treatment in middle-income countries. Work is underway with strategic partner organizations in Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine, and Thailand and is supported by the Initiative on Medicines Access and Knowledge (I-MAK). I-MAK is a small NGO with experience in litigating cases challenging patent protections and other intellectual property-related barriers to access to medicines. The project aims to remove intellectual property barriers, to allow generic drugs competition, decrease prices and allow more people to access treatment. The original consortium is funded by UNITAID, and goes under the name Make Medicines Affordable. A website has been created to promote successful strategies, share useful resources, and provide country specific news and updates for other civil society organizations wanting to get involved. More recently the website was expanded to cover nine new partners supported by Aidsfonds who are working across five regions and four new countries.

Activism for access to Hepatitis C drugs

In 2014, ITPC joined together with other civil society organizations to address American drug company Gilead’s access and pricing policies at the first World Hepatitis C Community Advisory Board (CAB) organized in Bangkok. ITPC issued global and regional press releases to denounce restrictions and shortages of the voluntary license signed between Gilead and Indian generic produces and engaged in advocacy with Indian generic producers to preserve independent suppliers from Gilead to ensure generic drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients can be available in countries excluded from the license territory.

At the regional level, ITPCru, ITPC South Asia, and ITPC MENA have rallied national coalitions to oppose patents for Sofosbuvir. ITPC MENA engaged in active advocacy with the Egyptian patent office for invalidation of a patent on Sofosbuvir as well as with the Egyptian ministry of health during negotiations with Gilead. In Morocco, a media campaign was organized to respond to the exclusion from Gilead license and to pressure Ministry of Health to make treatment available. As result of these efforts, Health Minister, for the first time, officially denounced Gilead’s exclusion and local production of generic version is currently underway. Similarly in South Asia, ITPC-driven advocacy and community mobilization contributed to the decision by the Indian patent office to oppose a pending patent application. In 2014, ITPCru co-organized two regional CAB meetings with HCV drug manufacturers, including Janssen, BMS and Gilead, where access issues were discussed. Follow-up letters were sent to the companies based on the results of the meetings. In Russia, ITPCru sent open letters to the government regarding the need to adopt the national HCV treatment strategy and to revise the Essential Medicines List to ensure greater availability of drugs for treating HCV.