In Focus
HEALTHCARE | Staff Reporter, China

US, EU block India's proposal for IPR waiver of COVID-19 drugs

The decision from the WTO is expected to come by end-2020.

Developed nations like the US, the European Union, the UK, and Switzerland are not in favor of India and South Africa's proposal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for the temporary waiver of intellectual property rights (IPR) for COVID-19 drugs.

WTO’s decision on IPR waiver is expected by the end of this year. China, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia and Turkey have shown favor for the proposal.

The proponents of the waiver argued that this would avoid barriers to the timely access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of essential medical products.

Amnesty International agreed, noting that the waiver would suspend the implementation of IPR such as patents on pharmaceutical products, and would facilitate the development and manufacturing of more and lower-cost COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines.

“We are encouraged by the number of countries that have chosen to put public health before intellectual property rights, but those states that failed to support this proposal risk holding back global efforts to protect people from COVID-19,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s deputy director for global issues.

Furthermore, GlobalData commented that the proposal will especially be an icing on the cake for India. The report noted that India has the highest number of FDA-approved manufacturing sites after the US, and the world’s leading regulatory bodies approved India’s manufacturing sites.

"It is a well-established fact that pharma companies with intellectual rights may not be able to meet the supply requirements on their own and hence need to partner for the manufacturing and commercialization of the patented drugs or vaccines," GlobalData's pharma analyst Prashant Khadayate said.

With this, Khadayate found it likely that most companies are happy to partner Indian companies, which can supply therapies to other parts of the world.

“The compulsory license clause can help country-level governments override the intellectual property rights related to drugs or vaccines for the supply of the domestic markets in the absence of the IPR waiver as a way of circumventing intellectual property laws,” Khadayate added.

According to a news release from WTO, a proposal submitted by India and South Africa suggested a waiver for all members of the organisation on the implementation, application and enforcement of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the “prevention, containment or treatment” of COVID-19.

It would last for a specific number of years, as agreed by the General Council, and until widespread vaccination is in place globally and the majority of the world's population is immune from the virus.

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