Practical Problems

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) says patents won’t block access to cheap medicines but local experts are not convinced. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) says patents won’t block access to cheap medicines but local experts are not convinced. “A certain amount of confusion exists about the TRIPS Agreement’s provisions and compulsory licensing for medicines,” said a statement from the WTO.

The WTO says countries can use compulsory licenses under the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement, to override patent rights.

A compulsory license can be issued by a government allowing someone else to produce a generic version of a patented medicine, without the consent of the patent owner.

But local health experts say issuing a compulsory license against a large drug manufacturing multinational, is easier said than done.

“Compulsory licensing is something that can be done on paper, but in practice it could be difficult to work,” says Dr Palitha Abeykone, from the local World Health Organisation (WHO) office.

To start with, a country must first try to get the