Intellectual property rights in the pharmaceutical sector are important because they encourage and partially fund the research into and development of (R&D) new and/or improved medicines and vaccines for both existing and new diseases. They also offer incentives for developing novel concepts into potential new medicines. At the same time, these intellectual property rights often put high price tags on medicines or vaccines that make them unaffordable, especially for LEDCs. This works not only to the detriment of those LEDCs themselves, but also that of other countries, as LEDCs will function as a reservoir of infectious diseases that can easily spread to other parts of the world as well. Furthermore, the ever increasing speed of R&D in the universities as well as pharmaceutical companies means a large percentage of medicines and vaccines will be obsolete or superseded by the time the intellectual property right expires.
It is the task of the WHA to create guidelines for a way of dealing with intellectual property rights that increases the availability of medicines and vaccines in LEDCs without hindering R&D in the pharmaceutical industry.