Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics
Summer 2009

Kristina M. Lybecker, Colorado College
Elisabeth Fowler, World Health Advocacy

The tension between economic policy and health policy is a longstanding dilemma, but one that was brought to the fore with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement in 1994. The pharmaceutical industry has long argued that intellectual property protection (IPP) is vital for innovation. At the same time, there are those who counter that strong IPP negatively impacts the affordability and availability of essential medicines in developing countries.

However, actors on both sides of the debate were in agreement that something needed to be done to address the HIV/AIDS crisis, especially in developing countries. In response to sustained and significant pressure from civil society groups, members of the World Trade Organization agreed to the Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health (the Doha Declaration) in 2001. The Declaration clarified that countries unable to manufacture the needed pharmaceuticals could obtain more affordable generics elsewhere if necessary.