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Compulsory licensing and access to drugs

Stavropoulou, C. & Valletti, T. (2015). Compulsory licensing and access to drugs. The European Journal of Health Economics, 16(1), pp. 83-94. doi: 10.1007/s10198-013-0556-2


Compulsory licensing allows the use of a patented invention without the owner's consent, with the aim of improving access to essential drugs. The pharmaceutical sector argues that, if broadly used, it can be detrimental to innovation. We model the interaction between a company in the North that holds the patent for a certain drug and a government in the South that needs to purchase it. We show that both access to drugs and pharmaceutical innovation depend largely on the Southern country's ability to manufacture a generic version. If the manufacturing cost is too high, compulsory licensing is not exercised. As the cost decreases, it becomes a credible threat forcing prices down, but reducing both access and innovation. When the cost is low enough, the South produces its own generic version and access reaches its highest value, despite a reduction in innovation. The global welfare analysis shows that the overall impact of compulsory licensing can be positive, even when accounting for its impact on innovation. We also consider the interaction between compulsory licensing and the strength of intellectual property rights, which can have global repercussions in other markets beyond the South.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: The final publication is available at Springer via
Publisher Keywords: IPRs, Pharmaceutical R&D, Compulsory licensing, Access to drugs, International exhaustion
Subjects: R Medicine > RM Therapeutics. Pharmacology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
Related URLs:
SWORD Depositor:
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