The Doha Declaration Ten Years on and Its Impact on Access to Medicines and the Right to Health
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Access to medicines is a human right, enshrined in legally binding international human rights treaties, select regional agreements and numerous national constitutions. The realization of access to medicines, including antiretroviral treatment, as part of the human right to health depends heavily on the legal framework for the production and distribution of medicines, including intellectual property rights. The adoption of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) changed dramatically the international landscape with regard to intellectual property, particularly in relation to access to medicines. Although one of the stated goals of the TRI PS Agreement was “to reduce tensions arising from intellectual property protection”, the possible conflict between such protection and essential public health objectives, particularly access to medicines, moved developing-country WTO Member States to request the Council for TRIPS to specifically consider the relationship between the TRI PS Agreement and public health in general, and access to medicines more specifically. After negotiations, in 2001 the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference adopted the Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. This Discussion Paper briefly describes the content of the Doha Declaration and examines its implications for the realization of the right to health. The Paper discusses a number of repercussions of the Doha Declaration with regard to the international discourse on the right to health and access to medicines, and its implications within the WTO system and for national legislation. It presents some examples of use of the flexibilities confirmed by the Doha Declaration, and discusses the issue of compulsory licences with regard to patents relating to products for non-communicable diseases. Finally, a number of conclusions and recommendations are presented.