Strong Medicine: Patents, Market and Policy Challenges for Managing Neglected Diseases and Affordable Prescription Drug

Taiwo Oriola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Access to affordable prescription drug is the critical mass of any meaningful public health policy. However, the spiralling prescription drug costs and the concomitant access problems are transcendent, posing daunting challenges for governments of both rich and poor countries. Arguably the greatest challenge for policy makers is how best to secure affordable prescription drug in the name of welfare and equity, without trammelling innovative medicine. However, the combustible mixture of patents, market, and the pharmaceutical industry’s penchant for maximising profits, has helped shape the current trajectory of pharmaceutical R&D disproportionate targeting of profitable drug representing just ten per cent of the world’s disease burden. By the same market token, the United States, the country with the world’s most competitive pharmaceutical industry, paradoxically still struggles against the tide of cross-border purchase of cheaper prescription drug by her citizens in Canada and Mexico. In Britain, as in most European countries, the highly regulated prescription drug pricing regime under the national health insurance scheme, often excludes expensive ‘drug of last resort’ albeit with proven clinical benefits. India has been regulating drug prices since the 1950s, and the recent spike in cheaper generics of patented drugs, has exacerbated tensions, and set local and foreign pharmaceutical firms on a collision course. Drawing on empirical studies and relevant literature, the paper critically reviews the cumulative effects of the legal and socio-economic externalities that shape the current global pharmaceutical production trajectory. While noting the imperatives of equitably balancing the inherent conflicts between the pharmaceutical industry’s profit-maximising objectives and public health needs, the paper canvasses for the supplementation of the current patents and market-driven monocultural prescription drug economics, with a normative, non-market, internationally mediated drug production paradigm that is cognisant of societal health needs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-123
JournalCanadian Journal of Law and Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2 Feb 2009


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