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This paper shows how new global patent rules, introduced by the World Trade Organisation, will raise the costs of vital medicines, with potentially disastrous implications for poor countries. In brief, these rules require all countries to provide patent protection for a minimum of 20 years for inventions in all fields of technology, including medicines. As the report points out, in the pharmaceutical sector the winners will be the large northern-based transnational companies which, as a result of the lengthened patent protection provided by WTO rules, will be able to sell their new medicines at higher prices. The losers are likely to be the millions of people who will be unable to afford vital new medicines, and hardpressed government health services.

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