NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

China and India as Suppliers of Affordable Medicines to Developing Countries

Tamara Hafner, David Popp

NBER Working Paper No. 17249
Issued in July 2011
NBER Program(s):   PR

As countries reform their patent laws to be in compliance with the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, an important question is how increased patent protection will affect drug prices in low-income countries. Using pharmaceutical trade data from 1996 to 2005, we examine the role of China and India as suppliers of medicines to other middle- and low-income countries and evaluate the competitive effect of medicine imports from these countries on the price of medicines from high- income countries. We find that imports of antibiotics and unspecified medicaments from India and China significantly depress the average price of these commodities imported from high-income trading partners, suggesting that India and China are not only important sources of inexpensive medicines but also have an indirect effect by lowering prices through competition. As India is the leading supplier of medicines in Sub-Saharan Africa, this region will likely be affected most adversely.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17249

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