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David Resnik, begins his paper with the claim that “Providing
people with affordable prescription drugs is probably the most important health
care issue for the developing world as we begin the 21st century.”
(1) In the recent years, one-third of the world still lacks access to essential
drugs it needs for good health. The society and the critics have said that the
“Big Pharma” companies are responsible for this as they have not been living up
to their social responsibilities. A major reason for this is Patents.
Pharmaceutical companies who own a patent have the right to monopolize and
exclude others from manufacturing the patented product (drug). The company can
also price the product at any cost it wants, leading to essential and
lifesaving drugs not being available to everyone, equally. While the
pharmaceutical industries of developed nations are constantly pressurizing to
follow stringent Intellectual Property policies, the developing and
underdeveloped nations face the problem of solving the thorny issue of
intellectual property protection to essential medicines bilaterally. The
stringent policies force to incorporate data exclusivity and increase the term
of patents whereas developing nations seek to reduce the prolonging of generic
medicines entering the market. “Patent Responsibility” is a term used notably in
universities, for example in University of California Patent Policy, 1997.
Unfortunately, the term is used to highlight only the legal issues and responsibilities
with respect to protection and profitability of one’s invention. The term does
not give insight on ethical constraints one should follow after receiving
grants for their invention. The ethical constraints aforementioned does not
deal with bioethics or that about patenting life. It deals with affordability
and whether the patent holders should milk out profits from people while exercising
their monopolized rights, even when the others are being deprived of their
basic rights, or they should actually provide their inventions on a platter for
those in dire need. The focus is to see if patents on pharmaceutical products
especially lifesaving medicines, prove to be more advantageous or
disadvantageous. There is a concern if patents are deviating pharmaceutical
industries from their social responsibility.

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