High Prices of Medicines and The Regulation of Intellectual Property in Europe

On Monday 31st July 2017, Dr Gaëlle Krikorian presented at a Centre for Health Law and Society Research Seminar at La Trobe Law School. Dr Krikorian is based at the Interdisciplinary Research Institute on Social Sciences, Politics and Health (IRIS), University of Paris 13, France. Dr Krikorian presented on the topic: High prices of medicines and the regulation of intellectual property in Europe.

Dr Krikorian’s presentation focused on the recent marketing of Direct Acting Antivirals (DAAs) in Europe, which are used in the treatment and cure of Hepatitis C. This has resulted in a high profile debate about the rising costs of new medicines. This has highlighted a systemic problem in France, and much of Europe, concerning the capacity of states to sustain the level of prices demanded by the pharmaceutical industry for new medicines to treat life-threatening diseases.

Dr Krikorian discussed the politicization of access to hepatitis C treatment, focusing on the response by NGOs and patient organizations in France. She referred to the media campaigns which had been pursued by activist groups, which targeted not only the cost of hepatitis C treatment, but also the monopolies established by legal patents, and the way in which these patents are granted. Many NGOs and patient groups have called on governments to remove patent protection to enable the purchase of generic versions of these medicines, therefore removing the need for rationing.

Despite public outrage about the cost of these medicines, and the subsequent rationing techniques employed by the French government, it is unclear whether social demand for access to medicines is going to accommodate a sustained critique of the system which has resulted in the escalation of prices for medicines. Furthermore, in the current context of pharmaceuticalization of health and public health policies, NGOs and patient groups engaged in social mobilization have struggled to distance themselves from the  agenda of the pharmaceutical industry.

The Centre would like to thank Dr Krikorian for coming to speak about this fascinating topic.

La Trobe