The UK pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, plans to increase medicine accessibility in low-income countries by granting licenses to generic manufacturers. The move is a significant change from most pharmaceutical companies attempts to extend full patent protections across the world.
Access to medication is a major factor in increasing global health.
Pharmaceutical companies rely on patents to protect their rights to sell the medications developed by the company. This protection allows the company to earn back their investment in research and development, usually through higher prices. Pharmaceutical patents block competitors from pushing the price down by providing the same drug under a competing brand. Globally, “generic drug makers” are companies who do little research and development of their own, instead they copy and produce drugs developed by big companies like GSK after patents have expired.
Generic drug makers are essential to providing lower cost drugs to nations and communities in poverty. Generally, the tradeoff is that patents enable big companies to invest money in R&D even at the cost of short term accessibility by the broadest customer base.