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Impacts of intellectual property provisions in trade treaties on access to medicine in low and middle income countries: a systematic review

  • Islam, Md. Deen1
  • Kaplan, Warren A.2, 3
  • Trachtenberg, Danielle1, 4
  • Thrasher, Rachel1
  • Gallagher, Kevin P.1
  • Wirtz, Veronika J.2, 3
  • 1 Boston University, Boston, USA , Boston (United States)
  • 2 Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, USA , Boston (United States)
  • 3 Department of Global Health, 801 Massachusetts Avenue, 3rd floor, Boston, MA, 02118, USA , Boston (United States)
  • 4 the Inter-American Development Bank, Boston, USA , Boston (United States)
Published Article
Globalization and Health
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Dec 30, 2019
DOI: 10.1186/s12992-019-0528-0
Springer Nature


BackgroundWe present a systematic review describing ex-ante and ex-post evaluations of the impacts of intellectual property provisions in trade treaties on access to medicine in low and middle income countries. These evaluations focused on multilateral and bilateral trade agreements. We ascertained which IP provisions impacting access to medicines were the focus of these evaluations. We provide a further research agenda related to investigating the effect of trade agreement’s intellectual property provisions on access to medicines.We followed systematic review guidelines with 7 different databases to identify post-2000 ex ante and ex post evaluations of trade treaties on access to medicines in low and middle-income countries. We included only quantitative ex-ante studies that used structural modeling and simulations to derive quantitative predictions and ex-post studies that utilized empirical data and econometric techniques to quantify the effects of intellectual property provisions in free trade agreements on host country’s pharmaceutical industry.The search strategy identified 744 titles after removal of duplicates. We identified 14 studies that fulfilled all eligibility; 7 studies are ex-ante and 7 are ex-post. The studies looked at medicine price and cost, affordability, welfare effects and speed of medicine market launch. Changes in intellectual property policy due to the implementation of trade agreements affect price, medicines expenditure and sales, consumer welfare, and ultimately the affordability, of medicines. The direction and magnitude of the price effects differ between ex-ante and ex-post studies. Further, the reported impacts of policy changes due to trade agreements on medicine access seem clearly multifactorial.ConclusionBoth ex ante and ex post methods have advantages and limitations and, on balance, both types report, for the most part, an increase in price and a decrease in consumer welfare with imposition of intellectual property protection in trade agreements. The main differences between these studies are in the magnitude of the changes. There is a gap in our empirical understanding of the mechanisms through which such changes affect access to medicines and which outcomes relevant to access are most affected by which type of changes in intellectual property policy and law.

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