In perpetuating and exacerbating restricted access to essential medicines,
current trade-related intellectual property rules on medicines may violate core
human rights to health and medicines. In this light, there should be serious
questions about their necessity, and their justification should be critically
assessed from the perspective of human rights standards. These standards require
that international trade rules on medicines be justified to the fullest extent
possible, and permitted only to the extent to which they can be justified.
In this article I explore the impact of trade rules on medicines access, and
the growing force of the human right to health. I argue that the limited
justification for strong patents in poor countries suggests the need for
significant reform of trade-related intellectual property rights. I argue
further that human rights standards may offer both normative and practical tools
for achieving this reform and challenging trade rules on medicines at various
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