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Against the Plague: Pharmaceutical Patents Exemption Right as a Biosecurity Strategy
University of Illinois Journal of Law, Technology & Policy (2007)
  • Taiwo Oriola
This article argues for pharmaceutical patents exemption right on crucial drugs and vaccines for bioterrorism-induced diseases. The proposal is hinged on bioterrorism’s expected high casualties, and the concomitant extraordinary public health crises, in the context of the bureaucracy-prone, long-winded compulsory licensure, and access to medicine paradigms of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), as reflected in most national patent laws. While there is a plethora of literature on the interface between pharmaceutical patents and access to medicine for resource-poor countries, critical analyses of pharmaceutical patent as a potent obstacle to biodefense strategies is rather underdeveloped in the burgeoning bioterrorism legal preparedness literature. Using plausible worse case scenarios of bioterrorism attacks, the paper argues that vast swathes of the population could become simultaneously vulnerable to deadly bioweapons, exposing millions of people to inevitable deaths, in a comparatively shorter time span than naturally occurring diseases like HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis. In the circumstance, time is of utmost essence in saving as many lives as possible. This makes it imperative for authorities to override crucial patented drugs or vaccines without prior patentees' consent, negotiations, or evidence of failed negotiations as envisaged by the contemporary patent regime. The article casts doubts on the propriety of the largely attenuated compulsory licensure and access to medicine paradigms, in international and domestic patent regimes, for the likely extraordinary public health crises that would result from large scale bioterrorism attacks. A fortiori, a case is made for the inclusion in the patent regime, a pharmaceutical patents appropriation clause for use in bioterrorism crises on ethical grounds, overriding public interest, and the tenets of fundamental human rights to health and life.
  • Bioterrorism,
  • biosecurity,
  • access to essential medicines,
  • pharmaceutical patents rights,
  • public health emergency
Publication Date
Fall October 28, 2007
Citation Information
Taiwo Oriola. "Against the Plague: Pharmaceutical Patents Exemption Right as a Biosecurity Strategy" University of Illinois Journal of Law, Technology & Policy Vol. 2007 Iss. 2 (2007)
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