Tahir Amin, DipLP, co-founder and director of intellectual property of Initiative for Medicines, Access, and Knowledge, discusses successes in drug patent challenges.
Can you share some of your success stories in challenging patents and lowering the cost of drugs for patients?
A lot of our work happened in India in the initial years on a number of first-line and second-line HIV drugs, [anti-retrovirals, ARVs]. We were successful in challenging those patents so Indian engineering companies could continue to export them to African countries. For example, India supplies 80% of generic HIV medicines to African countries, so we were able to keep that pipeline open.
In a number of cases our cases have actually lent themselves to creating leverage over the pharmaceutical companies in such that they’ve struck licensing deals. For example, we helped some of our colleagues in Ukraine and now Ukraine is included in that license as a result of that challenge.
The knock-on effect is to try and take some of the power away from the pharmaceutical companies, where you threaten the very rights that allow them to have all that power. Really, it’s about balancing the interests and making sure the system is working for both sides.
Unfortunately, I feel we’ve titled far too much in the favor of the pharmaceutical companies, and that’s why we see the problems we have today where drug prices are going up astronomically and, unfortunately, no one is able to really do anything about it. That’s why we feel our intervention is critical in terms of trying to redress some of those imbalances.