Nermien Al-Ali


The pharmaceutical industry in Egypt is the largest in the Middle East and North Africa (“MENA”) region, and one that has attracted foreign investment despite the fact that Egyptian law has not always provided pharmaceuticals with patent protection. The situation changed with the signing of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS agreement” or “TRIPS”), strengthening the interest of the U.S. and other pharmaceutical companies in increasing their investment in Egypt. The Egyptian pharmaceutical industry is currently undergoing many changes spurred by the implementation of TRIPS and the globalization of trade. Many of these changes can be seen through examining the new Intellectual Property Code, which Egypt passed in June 2002 to comply with the provisions of TRIPS. This Article examines the changes in the law and the economic policies of Egypt that pertain to the pharmaceutical industry in light of TRIPS, viewed in the context of the global debates that have revolved around the effects of extending patent protection to pharmaceuticals in the developing countries. Part I of this Article introduces the TRIPS agreement and the conflicting interests of the developed and the developing countries that overshadowed its drafting. Part II outlines TRIPS provisions relating to the protection of pharmaceuticals and sheds light on how the conflicts mentioned in Part I shaped the final version of TRIPS that Members signed in late 1994. This Part also examines the anomalies of TRIPS implementation within the first few years of its coming into effect, leading to the Doha Declaration in 2001. Part III examines the new Egyptian intellectual property law enacted in June 2002 to comply with TRIPS, with particular emphasis on the protection of pharmaceuticals. Part IV takes a closer look at the Egyptian pharmaceutical industry, its size and prospects for growth, as well as the challenges it has to address. The main challenge to the Egyptian government is how to strike a balance between facilitating an open-market policy to promote investment by foreign research-based pharmaceutical companies, while at the same time ensuring adequate public access to essential medicines and promoting the development of the economic and healthcare infrastructures.