The research based pharmaceutical industry, with the support of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects on Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) has secured its long-term profitability. Using an economic rationalist argument of recovering research and development costs, pharmaceutical industry representatives have successfully argued for greater patent protection.
This paper seeks to demonstrate how a powerful cartel of major global pharmaceutical companies through multilateral agreements and economic mechanisms protect their ‘bottom lines’. The commodification of research and development resulting in the private ownership of intellectual property serves to transfer the responsibility for the health agenda to the market. This limits the ability of governments, particularly in least-developed countries, to address their individual public health issues. By ameliorating the business risk presented by countries producing or importing generic medicines, the TRIPS Agreement has effectively rendered national health issues subservient to corporate profitability.