Public Health: Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights Report of the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health

Article excerpt

Public Health: Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights Report of the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health Geneva: World Health Organization, 2006; 204 pp.

This Report was requested by the World Health Assembly in May 2003 and drafted by a Commission established and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO). It explores the overall relationship between intellectual property rights and a variety of health policy issues, including: the health needs of developed and developing countries; the impact of extended patent protection on the research and development of new drugs; the extent to which higher prices resulting from patent protection affect the cost of - and hence the access to - needed medicines and numerous other related issues. It also presents a detailed list of policy options for consideration by governments, NGOs and the multi-national pharmaceutical industry. Its extensive list of references, and its background studies, will be a valuable resource for all who are interested in this important public health issue.

To its credit, the Report contains a useful discussion of the issue of whether extending intellectual property rights stimulates, or impedes, the development of new drugs. It outlines the evidence and arguments on both sides of this key issue (but it does not attempt to resolve it). It also outlines some of the philosophical debates over the privatization of knowledge through intellectual property regimes. …