Pharmaceutical patents can encourage the pharmaceutical industries to invent more medicines, and the competition in the market helps to reduce the price of medication. However, the monopoly of patents will create an obstacle to access to medications at the same time. The question is how to balance the monopoly of the pharmaceutical patent and the access to medication to protect the public health. In 2005, the H5N1 bird flu brought Vietnam to a difficult situation where Vietnam needed to provide enough medications for the population and also keep the pharmaceutical industries in Vietnam. The Minister of Health had thought about using the compulsory license to produce the medication. It was difficult to issue compulsory license in Vietnam because foreign pharmaceutical companies will be very scared to develop new medications. There has been struggle in the application of compulsory patent license in developing countries.
In addition, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) treaty has set up a high standard of IPRs in pharmaceutical industry. For example, it aims to expand patentable subject matter and adjust pharmaceutical patent terms, which could deteriorate some of its members’ struggle to access to medicines. How can Vietnam and others developing country members of the CPTPP (such as Chile, Malaysia, Mexico) live up to the higher standard required by the CPTPP and to secure people’s access to medication are important questions. The presentation will discuss how Vietnam and other members of ASEAN have used patent law to strike a balance.
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