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Hudson Institute Releases Report on Intellectual Property and Global Health

Hudson Institute

Study examines UN panel mandate to replace intellectual property system with a global drug regime

WASHINGTON— Hudson Institute has just released The Patent Truth About Health, Innovation, and Access, an in-depth analysis of the United Nations’ High Level Panel on Access to Medicines (HLP).

The Patent Truth About Health, Innovation and Access examines the premises that led to the creation of the HLP through an analysis of the past 50 years of global health issues and programs. Established by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to address the role of patented medical technology in drug shortages across the developing world, the 16-member panel is expected to release its recommendations in the coming weeks.

Dr. Carol Adelman and Mr. Jeremiah Norris, Hudson Institute senior fellows and authors of the report, concluded that the HLP was founded on basic assumptions that are not supported by evidence-based global health research.

“The HLP mandate was narrowly focused on just two factors of global healthcare—pharmaceutical patents and prices—as the main causes of poor health and disease in developing countries,” Dr. Adelman and Mr. Norris state in the report. “The research shows overwhelmingly that the main causes of lack of access lie elsewhere in the endemic causes of poverty.”

Components of the report include:

  • An examination of the causes of poor health systems, including doctors, hospitals and clinics; inadequate roads, supply chain systems, water and electricity; corruption; excessive taxes that governments in developing nations put on incoming drugs both donated and for purchase; and the lack of policies promoting economic growth and incentives for individuals and businesses to develop new technologies.
  • Findings that dispute the HLP’s objective to replace the current intellectual property system with a new global drug regime. A case study on HIV treatment demonstrates that patents were not a barrier to treatment in over 50 African countries, strengthening the intellectual property system has resulted in better access to medicines, and lower-income countries have benefitted from the innovation created by intellectual property regimes.
  • Research that refutes the notion that compulsory licensing, where drug manufacturers are mandated to transfer technology to developing countries, is effective in treating global health crises. The study shows how 95 percent of drugs on the WHO’s own Essential Medicines List are already off-patent, thus removing any need for compulsory licensing. Instead, companies have granted over 165 voluntary licenses to developing countries which are successfully producing HIV therapies, anti-malarials, tuberculosis medications and other drugs at affordable costs.

The authors urge the panel and other UN agencies to look at the track record of the many successful public-private partnerships among pharmaceutical companies, private voluntary organizations and foundations, and bilateral and multilateral aid agencies. They argue that these examples, through innovation and the current IP system, have led to remarkable gains in life expectancy and technological advances in global healthcare.

Dr. Adelman and Mr. Norris are available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Carolyn Stewart at (202) 974-6456 or via email. The full study, The Patent Truth About Health, Innovation, and Access, can be accessed at

Hudson Institute is an independent research organization promoting American leadership and global engagement for a secure, free, and prosperous future.