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History of medical patents

  • Published
    28th Dec, 2023
Context

Bringing medicines into the global intellectual property regime was a triumph of corporate skulduggery led by Pfizer.

Pfizer under Scrutiny: Claims vs. Reality:

  • Pfizer, a major biopharmaceutical company, faces multiple lawsuits from patients and governments, challenging its claims of prioritizing health and well-being.
  • Recent allegations by the state of Texas accuse Pfizer of intentionally misrepresenting the efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine, leading to a lawsuit seeking over 10 million Dollars in fines.

Chronic Issues of Misrepresentation

Pattern of Behaviour:

  • Pfizer has a history of facing lawsuits related to misbranding and deceptive marketing.
  • Notable instances include a $2.3 billion partial settlement for misbranding the painkiller Bextra and a $1 billion settlement for allegations of civil wrongdoing related to multiple drugs.

Role in Shaping Intellectual Property Rights

Pfizer's Influence:

  • Pfizer played a pivotal role in bringing intellectual property rights (IPRs) into the global trade regime.
  • Edmund T Pratt Jr., Pfizer's CEO, spearheaded the inclusion of IPRs in the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, driven by concerns about the rise of generic industries and assertiveness by developing countries.

The Genesis of TRIPS: Binding Agreements:

  • The Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations led to the formalization of IPRs in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) within WTO in 1995.
  • TRIPS imposed binding agreements that favoured the richest countries and transformed the landscape of medical patents.

Way Forward:

  • Pfizer's history of legal challenges, recent lawsuits, and its instrumental role in shaping global pharmaceutical patent policies highlight the intricate intersection of ethics, intellectual property, and public health.
  • As debates continue, the impact of Pfizer's influence reverberates in on-going discussions about equitable access to life-saving medicines.Top of Form
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