High pharmaceutical prices restrict access to essential medicines. New medicines are often patent protected which sustains prices well above the cost of production. This problem was particularly apparent during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the late 1990s. At this time, 40 million people were believed to be infected with HIV in the developing world and only one in a thousand had access to the required antiretroviral medicines (ARVs). This situation led to conflicts regarding patents for HIV medicines, only a few years after the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. TRIPS established international standards to protect intellectual property, including a 20-year patent protection for medicines.
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