The world was unprepared prior to the Covid-19 crisis and remains so for new ones. The Covid-19 response was faulty. Covid-19 recovery has been slow and painful, in particular for developing countries. Read the South Centre opening statement at the WHO, WIPO & WTO Trilateral Symposium 2022: Lessons from Covid-19.
WHO proposed instrument on pandemics: the Conceptual Zero Draft needs substantial improvement to address global public health needs
We welcome the discussions in the WHO on a new instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. While we appreciate the preparation and sharing with WHO members of the Conceptual Zero Draft (hereinafter ‘the Draft’), we note that more work is needed to address the insufficiency of the tools at the disposal of the WHO that became evident with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Left on Our Own: COVID-19, TRIPS-Plus Free Trade Agreements, and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health
By Melissa Omino and Joanna Kahumbu
The cusp of the twentieth anniversary of the WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health (hereafter “the Declaration”) was marked by a global pandemic. The Declaration and its iteration in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (hereafter “TRIPS”) Article 31 bis, should have helped to contain the devastation in least developed and developing countries. The reality is that the pandemic is still ongoing, and the Global South led by South Africa and India are seeking a waiver of provisions to the TRIPS Agreement to ensure that COVID-19 therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines reach their citizens in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus (“the TRIPS waiver”). These citizens are especially vulnerable because of their inability to access vaccines due to their prices and supply shortages caused by the refusal to share manufacturing technology. The Doha Declaration aimed at reaffirming the interpretation and implementation of the TRIPS Agreement to support WTO members’ right to protect public health and promote access to medicines. However, the operationalization of the Declaration via Article 31bis of TRIPS has been cumbersome and procedurally difficult to navigate. This paper argues that the current iteration of the Doha Declaration within TRIPS fails to meet the objectives of the Declaration as demonstrated by the need for a further waiver of the TRIPS agreement. It also attempts to “reimagine” Article 31 bis in light of the TRIPS waiver from the position of the Global South to make it more equitable and practicable and maintain the spirit of the Declaration.
Latin American and Caribbean Meeting: Communities Empowered to Tackle Antimicrobial Resistance
Organizers: Pan American Health Organization, ReAct Latin America, the Global Health Consortium of the Florida International University, South Centre
This dialogue involving civil society, non-governmental organizations, academics, international organizations, and governments seeks to capture, share, and learn from the experience of different communities in infection prevention and control and the appropriate use of antimicrobials and draw relevant lessons on how to better engage communities and enable their active participation in addressing AMR.
The WTO TRIPS Decision on COVID-19 Vaccines: What is Needed to Implement it?
By Carlos M. Correa and Nirmalya Syam
The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference adopted a Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement on 17 June 2022. This partially concluded almost two years of protracted discussions in response to a proposal by India and South Africa for a waiver from certain obligations under the TRIPS Agreement for health products and technologies for the prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19. The adopted Decision only waives the obligation under article 31 (f) of the TRIPS Agreement. Developing country WTO members are now allowed to export any proportion of vaccines, including ingredients and processes, necessary for the COVID-19 pandemic that are manufactured under a compulsory license or government use authorization to other developing countries. It also contains some clarifications of relevant TRIPS provisions, while introducing a number of conditionalities that are not present in the TRIPS Agreement. This paper examines the object and scope of the Decision, the requirements established for its use, and the required actions to be taken by WTO members to implement it.
Reducing the Unnecessary Use of Antimicrobials in Animal Farming
By Dr. Viviana Muñoz Tellez
Antimicrobial resistance is aggravated due to excessive and inappropriate use of antimicrobials in human and animal health and in plant and animal agriculture. While international standards are being developed, governments are rolling out regulations with the aim to curb the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials, to preserve their efficacy for as long as possible. This Policy Brief discusses two new regulations introduced by the European Union (EU) on medicated animal feed (Regulation (EU) 2019/4 and veterinary medicinal products (Regulation (EU) 2019/6) that entered into effect on 28 January 2022. As part of the implementation of the regulations, the EU should devise a comprehensive plan to help implementation by countries and producers of animal food products of the Global South, linked to supporting the transition to sustainable agricultural systems and development.
Lessons From India’s Implementation of Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health
By Nanditta Batra
The major bone of contention between the developed and developing countries in the TRIPS negotiations was patents for pharmaceuticals. The US-led developed countries bloc argued in favour of patents for pharmaceuticals amidst opposition from Brazil, India and other countries. Ample evidence, including patented AZT for HIV/AIDS treatment, showed that patents could make life saving drugs prohibitively expensive. Notwithstanding the effect of patents on access to medicines, Article 27 of the TRIPS Agreement ordained patents for inventions “in all fields of technology”. While the genie was out of the bottle in the form of patents for pharmaceuticals, the developing countries were able to extract some procedural and substantive flexibilities like transition period, parallel importation and compulsory licensing to leverage the IP system to further public health. However, there was uncertainty with respect to the interpretation of TRIPS agreement, scope of the flexibilities and Member States’ rights to use them. It is in this background that the historic Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health assumed importance as it reaffirmed the rights of the Member States to take measures to protect public health, reconciled the interpretative tensions in the text of TRIPS Agreement and clarified the scope of some of the flexibilities and attempts to find solutions to the problems faced by countries that do not have sufficient manufacturing facilities. The Declaration which was initially dismissed by some scholars as “non-binding,” “soft law” has been held by WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to constitute a “subsequent agreement” which must be followed in interpreting the provisions of TRIPS Agreement (Australia-Tobacco Plain Packaging Case).
The South Centre invites applications from the members of the Antibiotic Resistance Coalition (ARC) and other civil society organizations or research institutions from developing countries for limited financial funding (maximum 2000 USD per campaign) to design and launch campaigns or support continuing advocacy efforts at the sides of the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2022.
Brazilian Competition Law and Access to Health in Brazil: Exploitative Pricing in the Pharmaceutical Sector
By Bruno Braz de Castro
This paper aims to analyze the interfaces between Brazilian Competition Law and the issue of access to medicines, with a special focus on abuse of industrial property rights and related exclusionary and exploitative effects. The paper analyzes the case law of Brazilian Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) in the pharmaceutical sector and discusses abusive practices such as illegitimately imposing non-existent or invalid intellectual property rights with anticompetitive purposes. It then addresses abusive strategies in the exercise of industrial property rights which are, in essence, valid: i.e., exclusionary practices, aimed at artificially raising barriers to entry; and exploitative practices, directly translated as the exercise of market power to the detriment of the consumer. The latter ultimately result in exploitative excessive prices; contractual, quality or privacy degradation; and restrictions on supply, such as by hoarding/preventing the exploitation of industrial property rights. The paper concludes that the prohibition of exploitative pricing under the current competition law is legally valid and effective, with certain methodological concerns towards reducing the risk of wrongful convictions (for instance, by applying screening tests to determine the markets that are candidates for intervention). In view of such guidelines, the pharmaceutical industry appears to be an important candidate for antitrust attention, given the magnitude of the harm potentially derived from non-intervention against the practice. Remedies in this area, importantly, should focus on identifying and solving the sector’s structural competitive problems. In the case of medicines subject to price regulation by the Drug Market Regulation Chamber (CMED), the technical expertise of the competition authority may be of great value in terms of competition advocacy, a fact that is demonstrated in light of recent discussions on extraordinary price adjustments because of competitive problems in certain markets.