Parallel Importation of Patented Health Technologies: An Analysis of the Price-Reducing Policy Option

Dr Muhammad Zaheer Abbas1

1Queensland University Of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic has burdened most of the health systems around the world. Governments, especially in resource-constrained low- and middle-income countries, are finding it hard to meet the health needs of their nationals. Patent exclusive rights further add to the cost of healthcare by allowing supra-competitive prices of protected technologies. Parallel importation of patented health technologies is a legitimate policy option to obtain patented health technologies at a reduced price. Parallel trade or parallel importation in the pharmaceutical industry refers to the practice of legally importing a legitimately manufactured drug, without the authorization of the pharmaceutical patent holder. Under this doctrine, the right holders right to control or restrict further distribution exhausts upon the first sale. National exhaustion preserves right holders right to prevent importation from other jurisdictions. International exhaustion allows parallel importation from other jurisdictions. This paper examines the legality and practical significance of parallel trade of patented medicines as a price-reducing policy option and evaluates some of the practical hurdles in the actual use of this important public health flexibility. For improved public health outcomes, this study supports the adoption of international exhaustion of patent rights as a mandatory rule for the international trading system.



Dr. Muhammad Zaheer Abbas is a postdoctoral research fellow at Faculty of Business and Law, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, Australia. In this role, he is working with Professor Matthew Rimmer on his Australian Research Council Discovery Project ‘Inventing the Future: Intellectual Property and 3D Printing’. In March 2020, he completed PhD in Law at QUT as a recipient of QUT Postgraduate Research Award (QUTPRA). Previously, he studied law at International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI) and obtained BA General and LLB (Hons) with distinction in 2010. He also obtained LLM in International Law, with distinction, from the same university. He served as a Lecturer in Law at IIUI and has nearly 10 years of legal teaching and/or research experience. He also served as Associate Editor of ‘Islamabad Law Review’, a peer-reviewed journal of Faculty of Shariah & Law, IIUI. He has published 24 refereed articles, mostly related to intellectual property protection and the public interest. He has also presented 31 conference papers on related topics.

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