Rather than just let poor people in poor countries die because they cannot afford to purchase expensive drugs, the world's richest have decided to make allowances and provide medicines for these people without attaching the normal 'rip-off' profit margins.
The countries that will benefit from the waiver are the 48 poorest nations, classified by the United Nations as "Least Developed Countries" or LDCs, and include many African and some Asian countries. About half of the 900m population across these countries live on less than US$1.25 a day.
All other countries, including developing countries such as India and China, are still bound by the WTO's agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights (or TRIPS) with respect to drug patents.
The waiver is critical for the least developed countries. Compared with richer countries, they have a much higher disease burden, especially infectious diseases such as HIV and malaria. In 2011, about 9.7m people in these countries were living with HIV.
New York-based Turing bought the drug called Daraprim for $55 million this summer. It is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can be severe in patients with compromised immune systems, such as HIV, and for pregnant women. Earlier this month, the head of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association condemned the price increase from $13.50 a pill to $750, noting that the average cost per year for a patient weighing more than 132 pounds would be $634,500.