Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 10/2008

Intellectual Property and Public Health: An Overview of the Debate with a Focus on U.S. Policy - Working Paper 146

Carsten Fink

June 2008

Center for Global Development


The United States and other rich countries have substantially strengthened the patent protection for pharmaceutical products over the past fifteen years. In this working paper, Carsten Fink describes the global shift in intellectual property policies and employs economic analysis to evaluate its consequences for developing countries. He argues that the conflict between firms seeking to protect their patents and developing countries wanting to increase drug access will increase as more protected drugs enter developing markets and as the need for R&D increases. He offers several suggestions for rich-country policymakers to better balance incentives for innovation with the needs of the world's poor, who continue to suffer from diseases conquered in the rich world. His recommendations include