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Policy

Universities blast UN report on drug patents

by Glenn Hess, special to C&EN
September 26, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 38

Major research universities are slamming a report by a United Nations (UN) advisory panel that claims intellectual property rights, particularly patents, are largely to blame for high drug prices and lack of accessibility in developing countries. “A strong patent system is what allows universities and related technology transfer organizations to transmit the knowledge and innovations they produce for the public good and broader societal benefits,” five higher education groups say in a joint statement. The organizations, which include the Association of American Universities and the Association of University Technology Managers, responded to a Sept. 14 report issued by advisers to the UN Secretary-General on improving access to medicines. Among its recommendations, the panel suggested that nations should pursue compulsory licenses, which allow governments to override patents and allow the manufacture of lower-cost generic versions of brand-name medicines. But the universities called the focus on patents misguided. “In fact, intellectual property rights make the existence of, and access to, these critical drugs and technologies more likely, not less,” they say.

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