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Who Develops Innovations in Medicine for the Poor? Trends in Patent Applications Related to Medicines for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Diseases

Discussion Papers


by ITO Banri and YAMAGATA Tatsufumi
April 2005


Who invents medicines for the poor of the world? This question becomes very important where the WTO allows low income countries to be unbound by the TRIPS agreement.

This agreement concerns medicines for infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. These diseases cause serious damage to low income countries. Under these circumstances, some scholars wonder if anyone will continue innovative activities related to treating these diseases.

This paper sought to answer this question by collecting and analyzing patent data of medicines and vaccines for diseases using the database of the Japan Patent Office. Results indicate that private firms have led in innovation not only for global diseases such as HIV/AIDS but also diseases such as malaria that are spreading exclusively in low income countries.

Innovation for the three infectious diseases is diverse among firms, and frequent patent applications by high-performing pharmaceutical firms appear prominent even after R&D expenditure, economies of scale, and economies of scope are taken into account.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; malaria; tuberculosis; neglected diseases; patent; medicine; knowledge production
JEL classification: I19, L65, O31, O34

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Data doc (67KB)

Please note that discussion papers are works in various stages of progress and most have not been edited and proofread and may contain errors of fact or judgment. Revised versions of these papers may subsequently appear in more formal publication series. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). The IDE does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included and accepts no responsibility for any consequences arising from its use.