In this article in the Hoover Institution's American Outlook journal, the authors write that it is often argued that patent laws inhibit drug inventions and their distribution. This is espcially the case with HIV and SARS afflictions. The WTO in particular has states that patents on drugs prevent poorer countries from access to potenatially life-saving pharmeceuticals.
The authors conclude that the patent issue is a distraction. What prevents people from getting prescription style drugs, it is not patent laws, but the qualityof health care infrustructure, corruption, and quality control problems.