The International Bill of Rights enshrines a right to health,
which includes a right to access essential medicines. This
right frequently appears to conflict with the intellectual
property regime that governs pharmaceutical patents.
However, there is also a human right that protects
creative works, including scientific productions. Does this
right support intellectual property protections, even when
they may negatively affect health?
This article examines the recent attempt by the
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to
resolve this issue and argues that it fails. This is
problematic because it means defenders of the present
patent regime can continue using human rights documents
to support their position. I offer a new framework
for resolving the problem by examining the values that
underlie human rights.