This month's edition of the WHO Bulletin is somewhat valiantly about the report of the WHO Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health which was established in 2003 and which published its carefully-worded report earlier this year.
This is valiant because the Commission did not succeed in its ambitious task of securing a broad agreement across stakeholders from the rich world and the poor world, from industry, NGOs, international insititutions, governments and the public health community.
The struggle to reach an agreement was long and hard, delaying the publication of the report and leading to the addition of three dissenting statements by members of the Commission. There was controversy in the Autumn of 2005 when it was allegedly found that changes has been made directly into the draft text by Eric Noehrenberg, a lobbyist with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations in Geneva. In the end, the report was long on analysis and evidence, and short on meaningful conclusions. The Commission was not able to rule anything in, or anything out. The resulting document will, as a result, have little impact on this vitally important area of public policy.
Some of this WHO Bulletin is a rehash of evidence and submissions that were presented to the Commission, and which are available at greater length on the CIPIH website; but there are new papers too.
Unfortunately, a good deal of the debate suffers from the same polarisation as was evident in the Commission itself - between those who value intellectual property as an incentive for R&D and those who see it as an obstacle to access to life-saving medicines; and between those who believe the solution lies in the inventiveness of the private sector and those who believe that it lies in the social values of the public sector.
Here is the full table of contents for this special issue of the WHO Bulletin.