Implications of TRIPS Flexibilities for Access to Non-communicable Disease Medicines in Lower and Middle Income Countries

Saba Danawala ., Zoe Zhang .


Over 60% of deaths in the world are due to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), principally referring to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory disease. Nearly 80% of these NCD deaths occur in low- and middle-income (LMIC) countries, where it is difficult for people to access essential medicine for treatment. The problem of effective access results in part from the exorbitantly high prices that arise from the negative effects of global patent protection. The WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) offers flexibilities, such as compulsory licenses and parallel importing, to remedy those negative effects. Hence, two fundamental questions arise. To what extent do LMIC countries benefit from these safeguards when it comes to providing essential medicines for their populations? What options and political barriers do these countries have when making the case for being able to make NCD essential medicines accessible to their populations, and what lessons can be learned from the successes of increased and affordable access to AIDS/HIV medicines from the early 2000s? Through introspection of emerging case studies, this article explores ways to reduce barriers to essential medicines for NCDs under the WTO TRIPS frameworks and other relevant regulations related to pharmaceutical trade and patents.


Noncommunicable Disease, TRIPS Agreement, Access to Essential Medicines, Lower and Middle Income Countries (LMIC)

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