The WTO and Access to Essential Medicines: Recent Agreements, New Assigments

Roger Bate & Richard Tren | 13 Feb 2024
American Enterprise Institute
In November 2001, the World Trade Organization's (WTO) fourth ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar temporarily weakened intellectual property rules to allow the poorest nations to compulsorily license patented drugs in public health emergencies. Although the main reasons for lack of access to essential medicines are poverty and a lack of health infrastructure, this temporary declaration and its recent signing into full WTO law mean that the WTO can now work on more important factors restricting access to essential medicines. The most obvious obstacle is decreasing tariffs that poor countries impose on medicines and medical devices. The benefits of increased access are considerable and well-accepted, and the revenue lost to poor nations if the tariffs are removed is relatively small.

Read the full version of this paper here: