Ecuador made public on Sunday a presidential decree overriding over 2.000 pharmaceutical patents in order to provide more affordable medicines to the people of Ecuador.
President Rafael Correa who had anticipated the measure said that access to medicine is a human right and that he intended to seek compulsory licenses to acquire medications considered indispensable.
Under current World Trade Organization rules, countries have the right to seek such compulsory licenses that override traditional patent rights. Current WTO rules require that such countries negotiate with the patent owners to determine fair compensation.
“All those pharmaceutical products we can produce and copy, we will elaborate in Ecuador”, said Correa.
With this decision the Ecuadorian government wishes to promote local production of medicines thus avoiding “the huge profits of trans-nationals”, based on an industrial and intellectual property system which Correa defines as “neo-liberal”.
The action by President Correa is in line with recent statements that it would not honour the illegitimate debt that had been placed on the country by foreign banks (under previous administrations).
This bold move allowed Ecuador to renegotiate its debt for roughly 30 cents on the dollar. Much of that debt was considered predatory debt by academics who understand the way the World Bank and other first-world banking interests attempt to place debt burdens on many smaller nations as a tactic for exerting long-term influence over their economies.
Pharmaceutical pricing is also considered predatory by many observers. By definition, prices on brand-name pharmaceuticals are monopoly prices. That's because patent protection grants drug companies a monopoly market for a period of roughly 20 years. During that time, drug companies extract as much money as possible for their products, even from poorer nations whose population can barely afford to pay such prices.