By April Stewart

The European Union has included stipulations on intellectual property rights in a free trade and investment agreement (FTA) that is currently being negotiated with India. The Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), an organization of HIV/AIDS positive people who advocate to improve the quality of life and define proper standards of living for the infected, held a “Die In” in front of the Ministry of Commerce to protest intellectual property regulations within the agreement.

Intellectual property (IP) rights have become problematic with generic drug companies producing antiretroviral medicines for AIDS patients. India, with these IP provisions will be unable to produce affordable medication for the portion of the population infected with HIV or AIDS.  If IP provisions are included within this agreement the patent terms will be extended, the exportation of generic drugs will become difficult, and there will be a “delay [in] the registration of generic medicines.”

Thomas Pogge, a German philosopher, argues that Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for pharmaceutical companies are “morally problematic” in his book World Poverty and Human Rights. I agree with his assessment; while intellectual property rights may suit art forms such as music, IP provisions should not be applicable to what Pogge has termed “essential medicines.” I would argue that with the modern developments of medicine for HIV/AIDS, these should be included in the definition of “essential medicine.” In many countries, funding for the first round of antiretroviral drugs has become difficult to afford, while second rounds are virtually infeasible.  With the current manner in which pharmaceutical companies prioritize production, incentives to produce drugs are based on private or political influences and financial gain rather than producing drugs that are beneficial for mass populations with curable or sustainable illnesses.

Pogge introduces the idea of a Global Burden of Disease (GBD) patent, which would be an alternative to TRIPS patents. The GBD Patent would reward pharmaceutical companies on the reduction of the GBD, so the higher the reduction of the GBD, the higher the monetary reward. This new way of looking at pharmaceutical innovation would incentive drug companies to make cheap drugs, assure accessibility, and make sure that drugs are administered correctly. Not only would this type of patent benefit developing countries who are fighting against HIV/AIDS, it would create jobs for medical researchers in Western countries, lower cost of drugs for affluent consumers, and maintain relationships between countries around the world.

The “Die In” protest is a significant step for those infected by HIV/AIDS to stand up for fair treatment around the world. Without affordable medicine, a disease that has become manageable and is no longer considered an immediate death sentence will only be able to be purchased by wealthier infected patients, usually in developed countries. With this aforementioned phenomenon and the inclusion of IP regulations, there are huge moral implications that rise regarding the value of human life and whether those who are able to afford this medication deserve it more than those who cannot.


Works Referenced:
Pogge, Thomas. World Poverty and Human Rights. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2008. 222-256. Print.