As one wonderful example of the problem of equal access, and how exactly patents play a role, this article could not play a better role. Novartis, the company which holds the patent on the Leukemia drug Glivec, is currently in a Supreme Court battle over renewing a patent on Glivec in India after making a slight change to the drug. Indian patent law states that no patent held before 1995 (when India was forced into recognizing patents) are considered valid. Glivec was originally patented in 1993, which left Indian generic companies to provide the drug for $174 a month. The "brand name" price is over ten times that amount! Renewing the patent would put a halt on the generic production on Glivec in India. Luckily, the renewal of a patent in India is only acceptable if there has been a hugely significant therapeutic change in the newest patented version of the drug, so its not like they could just walk in and open a new patent. All we can do is hope that their case does not go through, or else access to this much needed product will be restricted in mass proportions. Take a look at this article for more information: Click Here
Hopefully the patients' rights groups in India will make a strong enough case to keep Glivec in the hands of the people who need it, not just those who can afford it.