ARTICLE: Compensation Versus Colonization: A Common Heritage Approach to the Use of Indigenous Medicine in Developing Western Pharmaceuticals Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2001 The Food and Drug Law Institute
Food and Drug Law Journal

ARTICLE: Compensation Versus Colonization: A Common Heritage Approach to the Use of Indigenous Medicine in Developing Western Pharmaceuticals

2001

56 Food Drug L.J. 367

Author

John L. Trotti*

Excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

Recently, pharmaceutical companies have turned to natural compounds in search of substances with powerful healing properties. 1 The abundant and diverse plant life of many developing countries is at the forefront of such research. 2 Although this abundance is a promising source for cures, it also has proven to be a daunting obstacle. 3 Companies must examine roughly 10,000 plants for every species they find with promising medicinal qualities. 4 To cut costs and streamline research, pharmaceutical companies increasingly rely on the remedies of indigenous peoples to locate naturally occurring medicinal compounds. 5 In 74% of these cases, Western science confirms the curative value of these native remedies. 6 Accordingly, reliance on indigenous knowledge has proven a significant source of savings in drug research. 7 Despite the profits from the cures, as well as the benefits to humankind, indigenous peoples' cooperation and teachings, however, often go unrewarded. 8

Critics argue this dynamic is a reflection of inequities in the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Agreement (TRIPS) that rapidly is setting substantive requirements for patent protection throughout the world. 9 According to the critics, such requirements codify value-laden Western notions of property rights, as well as technology. 10 Thus, TRIPS is a form of economic imperialism whereby developed countries protect their own intellectual property rights but may legally plunder or colonize the intellectual heritage of indigenous cultures. 11 Therefore, some argue that intellectual property regimes should be reformed to correct this political and cultural asymmetry. 12
 
 
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