An amendment to the agreement on intellectual property entered into force on 23 January, once two-thirds of WTO members had accepted the legal change. The amendment gives legal certainty that generic versions of patent-protected medicines can be produced under compulsory licences specifically for export to countries with limited or no pharmaceutical production capacity.
In his address to WTO members, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said:
“This is the very first amendment to WTO multilateral law, the first to be agreed among all members, and the first to come into force. It is significant that this first amendment is not about pursuing trade opportunities or market access for their own sake. Rather, its aim is to enhance access to medicines by the most vulnerable countries and overturn a situation in which the poorest could face the biggest hurdles in accessing essential drugs.”
The effects of the amendment remains to be seen, but it is a good start.