News Release

Is Big Pharma’s Intellectual Property More Important than Lives?

The Hindu reports: “U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he had not made a decision on whether the U.S. would support an Indian and South African initiative at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to facilitate the production of COVID-19 related vaccines and therapeutics around the world.”

JAMES LOVE, james.love@keionline.org, @jamie_love
Love is director Knowledge Ecology International, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization that “searches for better outcomes, including new solutions, to the management of knowledge resources.” KEI is focused on “social justice, particularly for the most vulnerable populations, including low-income persons and marginalized groups.”

He said today: “Critics of the TRIPS waiver have used a barrage of misleading and inaccurate arguments. The notion that the WTO TRIPS agreement already has sufficient flexibility is true up to a point, but ignores the toxic impacts of Articles 31.f and 31bis on exports, and Article 39 on access to manufacturing know-how and trial data. The claim that weaker patent rights will have no impact on vaccine production does not explain why removing legal barriers to making vaccines isn’t helpful, and why drug companies have hired more than 100 registered lobbyists to protect those patents. It is true that patents are not the only barrier to scaling generic or biosimilar vaccine production. Access to cell lines and manufacturing know-how, as well as vaccine inputs, are a challenge for some vaccine platforms, and the regulatory barriers to approval are important too. IP [intellectual property] is not the only issue, but the argument that IP is not an issue is wrong. Indeed, over time, IP becomes the most important barrier to entry. The benefits of weaker IP rules will depend in part on how long the COVID-19 pandemic persists, and no one really knows the answer to that. Governments need to do more than lift the most toxic WTO TRIPS rules, they should play a more constructive role in opening up access to know-how, and making vaccine technologies global public goods. The transfer of manufacturing know-how can be required, or even purchased. The WHO [World Health Organization] COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and the proposed mRNA technology hubs should be supported, and the proposed WHO pandemic treaty should include provisions to internationalize public rights in publicly funded know-how, inventions and data.” 

See related statements and documents from KEI including: “KEI submission to Canada Standing Committee on International Trade and Investment Policy: Concerning COVID-19,” “COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturing Capacity,” “Buying Know-How to Scale Vaccine Manufacturing” and “KEI Statement at WTO COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Event.”

Love was recently on the accuracy.org news release: “How Bill Gates Makes Intellectual Property More Important than Public Health.”