The challenge of providing access to high-priced patented medicines is a global problem affecting all countries. A decade and a half ago the use of flexibilities contained in the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, in particular compulsory licensing, was seen as a mechanism to respond to high-price medicines for the treatment of HIV/AIDS in low- and middle-income countries. Today a number of upper-income European Union (EU) Member States are contemplating the use of compulsory licensing in their efforts to reduce expenditure on pharmaceutical products. EU regulation of clinical test data protection and the granting of market exclusivity interfere with the effective use of compulsory licensing by EU Member States and can even prevent access to off-patent medicines because they prohibit registration of generic equivalents. EU pharmaceutical legislation should be amended to allow waivers to data and market exclusivity in cases of public health need and when a compulsory or government use license has been issued. Such an amendment can be modelled after existing waivers in the EU Regulation on compulsory licensing of patents for the manufacture of pharmaceutical products for export to countries with public health problems outside the EU. Allowing a public health/compulsory license exception to data and market exclusivity would bring greater coherence between EC regulation of medicinal products and national provisions on compulsory licensing and ensure that Member States can take measures to protect public health and promote access to medicines for all.
Keywords: Access to medicines; Compulsory licensing; Data exclusivity; European Union; Intellectual property; Market exclusivity; Medicines pricing; Patents.