2 Oct 2015 - by A4ID

Improving access to medicine

The cost of drugs can prevent many people from accessing healthcare. Work by our legal partners for MSF led to patent agreements which will help ensure drugs are available for the developing world.


Better medical care is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which seek to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides basic health care and disease prevention where it would otherwise be unavailable: in poor, unstable and remote areas, as well as those suffering crises and refugee situations.

Drugs, patents and payment

One of the major barriers to offering good medical treatment in the developing world is the high price of effective drugs and new diagnostic techniques.

This is an effect of law which allows pharmaceutical companies to patent their developments, preventing them from being made widely available except at a substantial price.

According to MSF, one third of the world’s population lacks access to essential medicines. In the poorest parts of Africa and Asia this figure rises to a half of the population. Too often, MSF cannot treat patients because the medicines are too expensive or they are no longer produced.

MSF wanted to support the development of several new diagnostic tests and to ensure that they would be accessible and affordable by people in the developing world. They needed to make sure that patent protection laws would not stand in their way.

A4ID and MSF

A4ID quickly found enthusiastic and highly specialised intellectual property lawyers to assist MSF. They drafted a patent agreement with the relevant research institution, helped MSF to communicate with this research partner in legal terms and to think outside of the box to find solutions to legal problems. MSF had the following to say of their experience with A4ID:

“MSF did not only benefit from the specific legal contract drafted, but from the fact that private sector lawyers are used to the mentality and professional patterns of the private sector”

The proficiency and hard work of the legal partners has helped MSF to secure unrestricted legal rights to new developments in diagnostics. This means that many more people in poorer countries will now have access to these better techniques, improving the treatment and reducing the incidence of disease worldwide.

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