American Medical Student Association
House of Delegates
2003ResolutionINTRODUCED BY: Quy Ton
University of Minnesota Medical School, Twin Cities
Research, Intellectual Property and Access to Essential Medicines in
It is beyond dispute that we are in
the midst of a global health crisis: Millions of people around the world, the
majority of them living in developing countries, are dying because they lack
access to life-saving medications for diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis, and
malaria. Life-saving antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS is available, but
unaffordable prices too often prevent safe and effective treatments from
reaching the populations that need them. Clearly, the current patenting and
licensing system, exacerbated by the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement, is not meeting
the needs of the majority of the world’s population because the world drug
market is concentrated in the North.
Universities have played early and
crucial roles in developing many HIV-related medicines, but still rely upon
patents and licenses to private-sector pharmaceutical companies to develop and
market final products. Because universities are “upstream”, they
often are in position to have early leverage over any drug that is developed and
marketed. With intellectual property (IP) rights now recognized as key levers
in determining prices, profits and access,
universities face difficult questions about how best
to manage their IP policies to further their mission of serving the public good.
As yet, however, there are no best-practices models that define
specific IP management strategies universities can
adopt to promote access to medicines in developing
Students, faculty and researchers can greatly influence
university intellectual property practices and thus play an important role in
increasing access to essential medicines worldwide. For example, students and
faculty were influential in convincing Yale University and Bristol-Meyers Squibb
to announce that they would allow generic production of stavudine (d4T, a
widely-used antiretroviral drug patented by Yale and licensed to Bristol-Meyers
Squibb) and sharply reduce prices in developing countries. The result was a
rapid, thirty-fold price reduction of d4T in South Africa and a subsequent
agreement signed with a generic company to make generic d4T in South Africa.
This important change was made at Yale without any negative consequences to the
University – financial or
BE IT RESOLVED that the PRINCIPLES REGARDING PHARMACEUTICALS AND MEDICAL
BE AMENDED to include:
7. Regarding University
research, intellectual property and access to essential medicines in
AMSA RECOGNIZES that Universities, as
intellectual property holders, play a crucial role in the development of new
medicines and medical technologies. How they patent and license these
technologies can help determine whether individuals in developing countries have
access to the end products of university research.
Universities to utilize the following Principles, suggested by the institutional
ethos of universities, when making patenting and licensing decisions that have
potential impacts on access to essential medicines and medical technologies
University research is intended to advance the common public
good, a primary element of which is the advancement of health.
health concerns need to be an important part of patenting and licensing
The success of patenting and licensing programs should be measured
according to their impact upon public health.
property policies should be implemented in a manner supportive of developing
countries’ right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote
access to medicines for all.
Technology transfer to develop capacity in
developing countries is an important part of universities’ mandate to
advance knowledge and the social good.
AMSA URGES Universities to
consider different strategies to implement these Principles, including not
patenting or allowing their licensees to patent in developing countries, and
issuing non-exclusive licenses for developing country markets.
RECOGNIZES that changes in University practices, with regards to intellectual
property, will require collective action and leadership amongst Universities
world-wide. Henceforth, AMSA URGES Universities to act together to establish
norms and implement strategies and best practices to promote access to essential
medicines in developing countries.REFERENCES
for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS. Workshop Report: Access to Essential
Medicines and University Research: Building Best Practices. Yale University,
September 25, 2002.
Also available online at:
Approved by the Social Concerns Committee, May 5, 2003