Worldwide Accountability: The WTO’s Failure To Create an Infrastructure that Delivers Pharmaceutical Drugs to Developing Countries



In response to the public outcry over the death of millions of people in developing countries because of a lack of access to life-saving drugs, the World Trade Organization (WTO) recognized the need for developing countries to obtain pharmaceutical drugs at a reduced rate. However, the WTO received significant pushback from patent holders and pharmaceutical companies who insisted that their patents be upheld in every country. The dilemma resulted in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. The WTO attempted to enforce intellectual property while, at the same time, “protect[ing] public health and nutrition.” This agreement became the subject of intense debate and led to a declaration by the WTO in 2001 (the Doha Declaration) that clarified the need for developing countries to obtain pharmaceutical drugs. A further declaration in 2003 set forth a system to let developing countries obtain drugs from developed countries by importation from these developed countries. Despite these efforts, millions of people are still dying because of a lack of access to pharmaceutical drugs. Furthermore, patent holders’ rights are being violated and the progress of research is being stunted by this violation. The only cure for the failure of the TRIPS Agreement and subsequent WTO actions is for the international community to set up a body that oversees the distribution of drugs to developing countries only when national health emergencies occur.

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