The United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines met in London on 10 March to discuss access to medicines, diagnostics, vaccines and health technologies. The event is a collaboration between the United Nations (UN), The Lancet, and The Centre for Commercial Law Studies (CCLS) at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).
Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and co-chair of the High-Level Panel said: “The dialogues are a unique opportunity for government, industry, civil society, and academia to come together to discuss potential solutions for promoting innovation and increasing access to medicines, vaccines and diagnostics, so that we can improve the health and well-being of all people, in all countries.”
Duncan Matthews, Professor of Intellectual Property Law at CCLS, made an expert contribution at the event in which he called for more effective application of competition law to improve innovation, access to medicines and healthcare.He said that competition law – when applied coherently and effectively – can prevent abuse of intellectual property rights in the pharmaceutical industry which has been criticised for using IP law to restrict competition in areas like generic medicines.
Professor Matthews said: “In some instances, even when competition authorities are active, many anti-competitive practices lack adequate attention. This is particularly striking in the pharmaceutical sector. Reverse payment agreements, for example, receive a great deal of attention from regulators. This is where patent holders agree to make a payment to potential competitors so that they will delay entering the market. Other business practices of pharmaceutical companies delay generic entry but competition authorities do not deal with this behaviour at all."
He added: “Anti-competitive practices create particular challenges for the developing world, given that they allow pharmaceutical patent owners to extend patent monopolies and, when considered together with provisions on data and market exclusivity, can lead to significant barriers to innovation and access.”
More information about the High-Level Panel is available here.
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