Technical brief |

Voluntary licenses and access to medicines

The full briefing document offers MSF’s analysis of key issues in voluntary licenses, describes opportunities for government response, presents case studies and recommends steps countries can take to ensure voluntary licenses best promote access to affordable medicines. The condensed briefing note summarises these recommendations to governments.
 

Photograph by Peter Bauza

Voluntary licenses represent one approach to managing intellectual property (IP) for medicines and granting permissions to alternate suppliers to enter the market with more affordable generic products. While voluntary licenses can allow manufacturers to supply medicines at lower prices than the patent-holding pharmaceutical corporation’s own products, they often come with secretive and restrictive conditions that undermine access to medicines.

As an international medical humanitarian organisation and purchaser of medicines, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has experienced first-hand positive and negative impacts of voluntary licenses on access to the medicines we provide to people in our care and beyond. MSF has also witnessed how voluntary licenses impact the ability of health authorities around the world to procure and provide essential medicines.