Las patentes y los pobres

CAMBRIDGE: Los debates sobre los precios de los medicamentos y los derechos de propiedad intelectual están en su apogeo. Muchos fármacos que pueden salvar vidas, especialmente los que se utilizan para combatir el SIDA, se producen bajo patentes que son propiedad de compañías estadounidenses y europeas. Los precios de las medicinas, protegidos por esas patentes, con frecuencia hacen que queden fuera del alcance de la gente de escasos recursos en los países más pobres. Así, mientras muchos pacientes con SIDA en los países ricos se mantienen vivos gracias a esos medicamentos, millones de gentes en los países pobres mueren, dejando desolación, millones de huérfanos y grandes pérdidas económicas.

Un tratamiento promedio contra el SIDA tiene un precio de aproximadamente 10,000 dólares por paciente por año en los países ricos. Los costos de producción de esos fármacos, sin embargo, son mucho menores que el precio de mercado, tal vez hasta de 300 a 350 dólares por año en el caso de las combinaciones de tres medicamentos que se utilizan en el tratamiento del SIDA. Algunos productores de fármacos genéricos de calidad, como Cipla de la India, han ofrecido proporcionar los medicamentos a precios cercanos a los costos de producción. Como respuesta a esa oferta (y a la mala publicidad), Merck, Laboratorios Abbot y Bristol Myers Squibb, tres de las grandes compañías propietarias de patentes, anunciaron que están dispuestas a suministrar al mercado africano las medicinas contra el SIDA que producen con “cero ganancias”, es decir a aproximadamente 500 dólares por paciente por año.

La tragedia de que millones de gentes mueran de SIDA en los páises pobres, aun cuando existen los medicamentos para darles tratamiento, genera preguntas serias sobre los derechos globales de propiedad intelectual, porque la protección de las patentes está creando una barrera para que algunas medicinas esenciales lleguen a los pobres. Pero, ¿cómo se pueden combinar los beneficios de un sistema global de patentes que genera incentivos para la innovación y los descubrimientos nuevos con la garantía de que la gente pobre tenga acceso a los tratamientos médicos que tanto necesitan?

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