Conflicts between pharmaceutical patents and access to medicine during the pandemic

Publicerad i Stockholm IP Law Review 2021 #1, juni 2021 s. 56–73


The coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of life. Revising contemporary laws and legal systems is inevitable to survive the current and future pandemics. The first paramount concerns are human life and health. An associated consideration is the financing of related medical solutions inter alia vaccines, antivirals, and antiretrovirals. These issues conflict with each other in the legal space intersecting between intellectual property (IP) and human rights. Humans have the legal right to ‘access to medicine’. On the other hand, pharmaceutical industries have the right to patent their products, which unfortunately could make medicine prohibitively expensive. During pandemics, choosing to give the medicine/licenses for free sounds like the best ethical solution, but it comes with serious risks like compromising the existence of the sources of research and development (R&D) needed to prepare for future outbreaks. Therefore, a balance is needed. Consequently, more legal research is a requisite. Efforts by policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and related institutions are essential. The investigation tackles these issues on an international level, and it renders special focus on the EU in some sections. This paper locates the relevant problems that need attention, collects related provisions, and propounds recommendations.