Opportunities for Access: The second Global Summit on Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines

The second Global Summit on Intellectual Property (IP) and Access to Medicines (GSIPA2M) will take place in Marrakesh, Morocco, 2-4 June 2020.

GSIPA2M has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The summit will still take place, at a later date, at a time when we are assured that international travel and events can take place safely. More information.

GSIPA2M is a biennial conference, organised by the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) and the Make Medicines Affordable (MMA) campaign. It aims to bring community representatives, governments, civil society, academics, experts and international agencies together for critical debates and discussions about IP and the affordability of essential medicines.

The Summit is held Marrakesh, where the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO) was signed in 1994. Since then, civil society organizations have used their expertise to perform a critical role in balancing WTO-mandated IP rules with public interest and public health, while resisting the sharp increase of TRIPS-plus measures that would further limit access to affordable medicines. However, their work is under-recognized and under-resourced – the GSIPA2M brings critical focus to this work.

TRIPS: The WTO agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) requires member states to amend their national/regional IP laws and grant 20-year patents on pharmaceutical products. For many developing and least developed countries, TRIPS brought drastic changes to their national IP regimes. Since 2005, as TRIPS requirements have become entrenched in the patent laws of these countries, their true scope and impact have become evident and widely recognized. 

TRIPS also left countries a set of flexibilities to use when needed to protect access to medicines and public health. In over two decades of TRIPS implementation, civil society organizations – particularly community groups of people living with HIV, hepatitis C and cancer –  have played a key role in advocating for, ensuring the use of, and even directly implementing TRIPS flexibilities through patent oppositions and litigation.  

In 2018, the first GSIPA2M was organized as ‘A return to Marrakesh’. 131 participants, representing a wide range of stakeholders from 35 countries across the globe, gathered to reflect, discuss and strategize, focusing on the impact of the TRIPS Agreement on health and access to medicines after over two decades, and to imagine – and re-imagine – what the next two decades of TRIPS implementation will (or could) bring. With the theme of ‘Pathways to Access’, the recognition, preservation and sustainability of the work of civil society was central to the discussions at the first GSIPA2M. 

The Summit focused on the critical legal actions taken by civil society and governments to ensure access to medicines within the framework of the TRIPS Agreement. Examples of the use of TRIPS flexibilities, by community groups through patent oppositions and by governments in issuing compulsory licenses, were a major part of the discussion.

The second GSIPA2M is planned for 2-4 June 2020 and aims to pick up where the first Summit left off. Since the first summit in 2018, there have been significant developments in the area of IP and access to medicines: For the first time UN member states have pledged to implement Universal Health Coverage (UHC), including ensuring access to essential medicines, and there have been noteworthy victories against the inclusion of TRIPS-plus provisions in mega free-trade agreements (cross-regional agreements). At the same time, people who need life-saving medicines in developed countries have faced the negative consequences as a result of abuse of the IP system, and governments are having to step in to take action against monopolistic pharmaceutical corporations and their extortionate pricing policies. 

In response, the 2020 GSIPA2M will focus on ‘Opportunities for Access’, creating a platform for a coordinated global response that tackles systemic concerns within the current IP system, while implementing bold, step-by-step actions to pave the ways to access by using TRIPS flexibilities. 

GSIPA2M 2020 will cover short- and medium-term solutions, as well as long-term goals. With the total global implementation of TRIPS fast approaching and global commitments on UHC gaining traction, the second GSIPA2M comes at a critical time for governments and civil society to identify existing opportunities for ensuring access to medicines and to create new opportunities through reforming the current systems of research and development (R&D), patenting and production of medicines. 

Objectives of the Summit 

  • Bring together community representatives, governments, civil society, academics, experts and international agencies to look back, and to look ahead, at the impact of international trade rules on the lives and health of millions of people across the globe.  
  • Highlight the critical role played by people living with HIV, hepatitis C, cancer and other diseases, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other health groups in implementing  TRIPS flexibilities since 1995; the cost savings and increased access that their work has resulted in; and identify key factors in providing an enabling environment to sustain the work of  civil society organizations (CSOs) in this area.   
  • Gather practical ideas for a more alternative agenda for the interpretation and implementation of TRIPS flexibilities, and identify key short-, medium-, and long-term strategies to expand access to safe, effective and affordable generic medicines.
  • Provide a strategic platform to discuss strategies, successes, and setbacks for governments and CSOs in resisting trade, lobbying and litigation threats that undermine the use of TRIPS flexibilities, push the enforcement agenda and force the adoption of TRIPS-plus measures.
  • Provide impetus for discussions and develop concepts for alternative legal IP and health frameworks that ensure the primacy of the right to health over trade rules. 

Attending the conference

If you are interested in attending the conference or have any enquires, please contact Detrich Peeler: d[email protected]