Practical Implications of ‘Vaccine Nationalism’: A Short-Sighted and Risky Approach in Response to COVID-19
By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD
To end the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure a return of normalcy, an effective and safe vaccine is the best hope. The vaccine nationalism approach, adopted by some countries to gain preferential access to emerging COVID-19 vaccines, poses a threat to the fair and equitable distribution of the potential vaccines across the globe. This research paper critically evaluates the approach of vaccine nationalism and argues that this self-centred political behaviour of leaving others behind is short-sighted, potentially risky, morally indefensible, and practically inefficient in containing the pandemic. This paper highlights why it is important for national governments to support the collaborative and coordinated effort of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility for the timely development and efficient delivery of potential COVID-19 vaccines. It concludes that an effective response to the current health and economic crisis should be guided by values of international solidarity, multilateralism, equality, and global collaboration. It proposes the adoption of an enforceable global framework to address the concerns arising from the combination of vaccine nationalism and intellectual property exclusivities.
Webinar: Towards Justice in the International Economic Order: Proposals from the South
This webinar is a collaboration between Afronomicslaw and the South Centre, Geneva, to mark the 25th anniversary of the South Centre. Both the South Centre and Afronomicslaw share a commitment to the protection and promotion of the development interests of countries of the Global South.
The theme of the webinar “Towards Justice in the International Economic Order: Proposals from the South” reflects this shared commitment. In particular, the webinar will focus on selected initiatives proposed by the Global South. An important premise of the webinar presentations will be that the countries of the Global South are not mere spectators in the construction of the global order. Among the issues that the webinar will discuss will be access and a development-oriented approach to the WTO TRIPS Council (including the recent waiver proposal by South Africa and India on TRIPS obligations, and attempts to reframe the e-commerce and IP agenda). It will also reflect on the soon to be launched African Sovereign Debt Justice Network (AfSDJN), relating to issues of sovereign debt that have become particularly germane in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patent Analysis for Medicines and Biotherapeutics in Trials to Treat COVID-19
By Srividya Ravi
This report provides an analysis of patents covering medicines in trials to treat COVID-19. The aim of the report is to support national patent offices and interested parties in developing countries with information that can serve as guidance for the examination of the claims contained in relevant patents or patent applications.
The medicines considered for the patent analysis in this report are remdesivir, ruxolitinib and favipiravir, and the biotherapeutics tocilizumab, siltuximab and sarilumab.
TRIPS Flexibilities on Patent Enforcement: Lessons from Some Developed Countries Relating to Pharmaceutical Patent Protection
By Joshua D. Sarnoff
Authority for national judiciaries to issue permanent and preliminary injunctions is required by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Articles 44 and 50. But the TRIPS Agreement does not require the issuance of injunctions in any particular circumstances, and does not harmonize the laws on which national jurisdictions derive their injunctive relief authorities. Thus, countries remain free to refuse prohibitory injunctive relief for adjudicated or likely patent infringement, particularly if “reasonable compensation” is offered in the form of an “ongoing royalty” or an “interim royalty” payment, which acts similarly to a compulsory license. This paper explains the existing legal standards for permanent and preliminary injunctions in the United States and Canada and discusses trends regarding the issuance or denial of injunctions for pharmaceutical patents in those jurisdictions (with occasional reference to other common-law jurisdictions). Although judges in these jurisdictions more routinely deny preliminary prohibitory injunctions, legislation linking generic pharmaceutical regulatory approvals to the patent system and imposing stays of such approvals normally avoid the need for such preliminary injunctions. Consistent with the TRIPS Agreement, developing country judges may make different choices, based on the ability to provide reasonable compensation for harms or based on a different weighing of the importance of assuring affordable access to medicines relative to providing innovation incentives.
PROPOSAL BY INDIA AND SOUTH AFRICA TO WAIVE CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE WTO TRIPS AGREEMENT TO SUPPORT THE GLOBAL COVID-19 PANDEMIC RESPONSE
The prolongation of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic threatens developing countries disproportionately, deepening the catastrophic social and economic crisis and reversing the gains made to date to eradicate extreme poverty and meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this situation, ensuring timely access to essential commodities by overcoming acute shortages faced by countries due to high demand and disruptions in the supply chain is critical. There is also an urgent need to speed up development of new vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, at scale, and make these widely available.
As reaffirmed by many delegations in the special session of the WHO Executive Board, transfer of technology and know-how is fundamental for scaling up manufacturing of medical products and equipment. In this regard, India and South Africa have made a joint proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to support the global Covid-19 pandemic response.
Today the judicial authority may be faced with balancing patent rights and patients’ rights or right to life. It shall use all the tools at its command and innovate if necessary, but shall rule in favour of life.
A New Trend in Trade Agreements: Ensuring Access to Cancer Drugs
By Maria Fabiana Jorge
A World Health Organization (WHO) report on cancer indicates that the cancer burden will increase at least by 60% over the next two decades, straining health systems and communities. Companies develop cancer drugs in part because payers are less resistant to paying high drug prices for these drugs. As Barbara Rimer, Dean of the University of North Carolina and Chair of the U.S. President’s Cancer Panel stated, “[m]ost cancer drugs launched in the United States between 2009 and 2014 were priced at more than $100,000 per patient for one year of treatment.” Many of the new cancer drugs are biologics. Such prices are clearly out of reach for most patients who will need them increasingly more to stay alive. While competition is critical to ensure lower drug prices, we have seen a number of strategies, including through trade agreements, to prevent competition and extend monopolies over these drugs and their very high drug prices. It is no accident that the exclusivity granted to biologic drugs has been one of the most conflictive provisions in recent trade agreements such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Nevertheless a new trend in trade agreements started in 2007 when U.S. Members of Congress pushed back against the interests of powerful economic groups seeking longer monopolies for drugs. These Members of the U.S. Congress prevailed then in restoring some balance in the trade agreements with Peru, Colombia and Panama and further consolidated this new trend in 2019 in the USMCA. Moreover, following the U.S. withdrawal from the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the negotiators of the remaining 11 countries also pushed back to ensure a better balance between innovation and access in the CPTPP. People around the world need to be aware of these precedents and ensure that they also work for access to medicines for their own citizens.
Re-thinking Global and Local Manufacturing of Medical Products After COVID-19
By Dr. Germán Velásquez
The unprecedented global health crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic since the first quarter of 2020 has reopened the now-urgent discussion about the role of local pharmaceutical production in addressing the health needs in developing countries. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the interdependencies in the global production of pharmaceuticals—no country is self-sufficient. Many industrialized countries are making the decision to repatriate or initiate the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and medicines. Governments are beginning to talk about ‘pharmaceutical sovereignty’ or ‘health security’. If this becomes a reality and the production of pharmaceuticals is led by nationalistic policies, developing countries that still lack manufacturing capacity will have to start or expand the local production of pharmaceuticals, whether at the national or regional level. The war to get access to the future vaccine for COVID-19 does not look easy with these new developments.
Médicaments et propriété intellectuelle: 10 ans de la stratégie mondiale de l’OMS
Par Dr. Germán Velásquez
Les négociations du Groupe de travail intergouvernemental sur la santé publique, l’innovation et la propriété intellectuelle connu sous le nom de “IGWG” (2006-2008), menées par les Etats Membres de l’OMS, sont le résultat d’une impasse à l’Assemblée mondiale de la santé du 6 décembre 2006 où les Etats Membres n’ont pu parvenir à un accord sur les 60 recommandations du rapport” Santé publique, innovation et propriété intellectuelle “soumis la même année par un groupe d’experts désigné par le Directeur général de l’OMS. Le résultat de ces négociations devint la “Stratégie mondiale et Plan d’action pour la santé publique, l’innovation et la propriété intellectuelle” (GSPOA), approuvé par l’Assemblée mondiale de la santé en 2008. Un des objectifs de la Stratégie mondiale élaboré par l’IGWG était de réformer en profondeur le système d’innovation pharmaceutique, en raison de son incapacité à produire des médicaments abordables contre les maladies qui affligent une grande partie de la population du monde vivant dans les pays en développement. Les droits de propriété intellectuelle (PI) imposés par l’Accord sur les aspects des droits de propriété intellectuelle liés au commerce (ADPIC) et les accords commerciaux pourraient devenir des principaux obstacles à l’accès aux médicaments. Le GSPOA a fait une analyse critique de cette réalité et a mené à la recherche de nouvelles solutions à ce problème. Dix ans après l’approbation du GSPOA, les résultats restent incertains et médiocres.