Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 81, July 2020

The UN General Assembly Resolutions on COVID-19: Solemn Assurances for Access to Health Technologies without an Action Plan

By Nirmalya Syam

The United Nations (UN) has the mandate under the Charter of the United Nations to promote solutions to international health problems, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. While the UN secretariat, led by the Secretary-General, has undertaken a number of initiatives in response to COVID-19, member State initiatives in the UN has so far been limited to two resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly. Member States are currently negotiating an omnibus resolution of the General Assembly on COVID-19.  This policy brief analyzes the extent to which the General Assembly addresses the issue of timely, equitable and affordable access to health technologies, particularly for developing countries who have greater vulnerability to COVID-19. The adopted resolutions make very broad pledges for global solidarity but lack specific commitments to guide actions by member States. The omnibus resolution currently under negotiation should provide specific guidance to member States on actions to be taken based on the principles of solidarity and multilateral cooperation in diverse aspects impacted by COVID-19.

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Policy Brief 80, June 2020

Intellectual Property, Innovation and Access to Health Products for COVID-19: A Review of Measures Taken by Different Countries

By Nirmalya Syam

The rising incidence of COVID-19 will require all countries, particularly developing and least developed countries, to be able to procure and manufacture the products required for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Intellectual property (IP) rights over such products can constrain the ability of countries to rapidly procure and produce and supply the products required at a mass scale. This Policy Brief describes the measures and actions taken by different countries to address potential IP barriers to access to the products required for COVID-19. A number of countries, both developed and developing, have adopted measures to enable governments to take action to overcome IP barriers in case they constrain access to the products required for COVID-19. In addition to these measures, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) also allows considerable flexibility to adopt a number of other possible measures which can be considered by developing countries where necessary.

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Policy Brief 79, June 2020

Articles 7 and 8 as the basis for interpretation of the TRIPS Agreement

By Thamara Romero

Articles 7 and 8 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) play a central role in assuring the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) the right to implement public health measures. The Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health is also an important element for the interpretation of any provision of the TRIPS Agreement that may have public health implications. The most recent and prominent example of the use of articles 7 and 8 for interpretation in WTO law can be found in the WTO Panel decision of 2018 on the Australia – Tobacco Plain Packaging dispute.

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Policy Brief 78, May 2020

The 73rd World Health Assembly and Resolution on COVID-19: Quest of Global Solidarity for Equitable Access to Health Products

By Nirmalya Syam, Mirza Alas and Vitor Ido

The annual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) held virtually on 18-19 May 2020 discussed the global response to COVID-19 and adopted Resolution WHA73.1 on “COVID-19 Response”. The Resolution reaffirms the role of WHO as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work and it recognizes that all countries should have timely and affordable access to diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines as well as to essential health technologies and equipment to respond to COVID-19. However, the Resolution does not define concrete actions to address the pandemic. Though the Resolution makes a commitment of ensuring access to medical products, vaccines and equipment for all countries in a timely manner, there are no concrete actions defined.  In order to ensure global equitable access, WHO Members should make full use of the flexibilities of the Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)  and also enhance transparency of costs of research and development (R&D), openness and sharing of data, tools and technologies, and build more capacity through technology transfer.

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Informe Sobre Políticas 73, Mayo 2020

La pandemia de COVID-19: el fomento de la I+D y la gestión de la propiedad intelectual para acceder a diagnósticos, medicamentos y vacunas

Por Viviana Muñoz Tellez

La rápida difusión actual de COVID-19 está poniendo a prueba la capacidad de los gobiernos y de la Organización Mun-dial de la Salud (OMS) para poner en marcha una respuesta mundial coordinada a la pandemia. Los países en desarrollo y los países menos adelantados (PMA), en particular los de África, son particularmente vulnerables a los efectos de la crisis de salud pública. Una esfera prioritaria para la colaboración mundial es el fomento de la investigación y el desar-rollo de vacunas y medicamentos que estén disponibles, sean asequibles y accesibles en todo el mundo. En la actualidad no existe una vacuna ni una terapia directa segura y eficaz probada para COVID-19. También es necesario acelerar la capacidad y los instrumentos de ensayo en los países en desarrollo y los países menos adelantados con un mayor acceso a diagnósticos de bajo costo. El enfoque de la gestión de los derechos de propiedad intelectual por parte de las instituci-ones de investigación, las empresas farmacéuticas y biotecnológicas y las entidades de financiación de la investigación y el desarrollo afectará de manera decisiva a la disponibilidad y el acceso, así como a la transferencia de tecnología y conocimientos técnicos. Los gobiernos deben asegurarse de que disponen de marcos legislativos y de procedimiento que les permitan superar cualquier barrera de patentes, de exclusividad de datos y de secretos comerciales para adquirir y producir diagnósticos, vacunas, medicamentos y otros productos terapéuticos de COVID-19.

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Rapport sur les politiques 73, Mai 2020

La pandémie de COVID-19 : R&D et gestion de la propriété intellectuelle pour l’accès aux tests diagnostiques, aux médicaments et aux vaccins

Par Viviana Muñoz Tellez

La propagation rapide actuelle du COVID-19 met à l’épreuve la capacité des gouvernements et celle de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS) à apporter une réponse mondiale coordonnée à la pandémie. Les pays en développement et les pays les moins avancés (PMA), en particulier en Afrique, sont particulièrement vulnérables aux effets de la crise de santé publique. Un domaine prioritaire de collaboration mondiale consiste à faire progresser la recherche et le développement (R&D) de vaccins et de médicaments qui soient disponibles, abordables et accessibles dans le monde entier. Il n’existe actuellement aucun vaccin et aucune thérapie directe pour COVID-19 dont l’innocuité et l’efficacité ont été prouvées. Il est également nécessaire d’accélérer les capacités et les outils d’essai dans les pays en développement et les PMA en leur donnant un accès accru à des diagnostics peu coûteux. L’approche de la gestion des droits de propriété intellectuelle par les institutions de recherche, les entreprises pharmaceutiques et biotechnologiques et les organismes de financement de la R&D aura une incidence décisive sur la disponibilité et l’accès, ainsi que sur le transfert de technologie et de savoir-faire. Les gouvernements doivent s’assurer qu’ils disposent de cadres législatifs et procéduraux leur permettant de surmonter les obstacles liés aux brevets, à l’exclusivité des données et aux secrets commerciaux afin de se procurer et de produire des diagnostics, des vaccins, des médicaments et d’autres produits thérapeutiques pour le COVID-19.

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Policy Brief 77, May 2020

COVID-19 and WTO: Debunking Developed Countries’ Narratives on Trade Measures

By Aileen Kwa, Fernando Rosales and Peter Lunenborg

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, developing countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO) are faced with demands to i) permanently liberalize their markets in health products, and also in agriculture; ii) ban export restrictions in agriculture; and iii) conclude new digital trade rules including liberalizing online payment systems, and agreeing to free data flows. There seems to be a confusion between short-term and long-term responses. For the short-term, governments must take measures needed to address the crisis, including liberalizing needed health products. However, permanently bringing tariffs to zero for the health and agricultural sectors will not support developing countries to build domestic industries. Export restrictions in agriculture cannot be given up. They can be a very important tool for stabilizing domestic prices and for food security. New digital trade rules at the WTO would foreclose the possibility for countries to impose data sovereignty regulations, including data localization requirements that can support their infant digital platforms and industries.

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Informe Sobre Políticas 75, Mayo 2020

Repensando la I+D para productos farmacéuticos después del choque de la Coronavirus COVID-19

Por Germán Velásquez

La crisis sanitaria mundial sin precedentes provocada por la pandemia de coronavirus –COVID-19–, durante el primer trimestre de 2020, hace que vuelva a ser especialmente urgente el debate sobre el modelo de investigación y desarrollo (I+D) de productos farmacéuticos y otras tecnologías sanitarias. La crisis de COVID-19 muestra que existe una necesidad urgente de rediseñar la gobernanza mundial de la salud pública para la I+D en materia de salud.  La adopción de un instrumento vinculante –como permite el artículo 19 de la Constitución de la OMS– en esta materia fue propuesta hace muchos años. Este documento sostiene que es hora de revivir y materializar esta iniciativa.

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Policy Brief 76, April 2020

Evolution of Data Exclusivity for Pharmaceuticals in Free Trade Agreements

By Wael Armouti

Free trade agreements (FTAs) introduce higher intellectual property (IP) protection than those established in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS-plus provisions) that deprive the parties from benefits of the use of flexibilities found in the TRIPS Agreement to protect public health. One such TRIPS-plus requirement is that of data exclusivity. It establishes that the government should provide an exclusivity period for the test data developed by the originator company, on the grounds of an incentive rationale and considerations of fairness. The negative impact of the data exclusivity approach in developing countries means that the entry of cheap generic products is delayed, even under a compulsory license, which will affect access to affordable medicines. Countries that have already signed the FTAs can mitigate its effects on public health by limiting the scope of and providing exceptions to data exclusivity in national legislation.

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Policy Brief 75, April 2020

Rethinking R&D for Pharmaceutical Products After the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Shock

By Dr. Germán Velásquez

The unprecedented global health crisis caused by the coronavirus –COVID-19– pandemic, during the first quarter of 2020, brings back with particular urgency the discussion about the research and development (R&D) model for pharmaceuticals and other health technologies. The COVID-19 crisis shows that there is an urgent need to re-design the global public health governance for health R&D.  The adoption of a binding instrument –as allowed by Article 19 of the WHO Constitution– on this matter was proposed many years ago. This brief argues that it is time to revive and materialize this initiative. 

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Policy Brief 74, April 2020

Challenges and Opportunities for Implementing the Declaration of the Right to Development

By Yuefen Li, Daniel Uribe and Danish

The 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development was a milestone for both human rights and development. The Declaration recognizes that the right to development (RTD) is an inalienable human right and introduced an alternative and holistic approach to development that goes beyond the economic field to include social, cultural and political development. Although there are current concerns about the pace of progress in fulfilling the RTD, this Policy Brief examines the linkages of the right to development and different global initiatives tackling current challenges for different aspects of the RTD. This brief shows that there has been broader support by countries and people since 1986 to fulfill the RTD although much still needs to be done for addressing income and other inequalities while empowering people in the processes of formulating and implementing people-centered development policies. Despite challenges, the brief also examines some promising opportunities for the RTD.

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Policy Brief 73, April 2020

The COVID-19 Pandemic: R&D and Intellectual Property Management for Access to Diagnostics, Medicines and Vaccines

By Viviana Muñoz Tellez

The ongoing rapid spread of COVID-19 is challenging the capacity of governments and of the World Health Organization (WHO) to timely put in place a global coordinated response to the pandemic. Developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in particular in Africa are especially vulnerable to the unfolding effects of the public health crisis. A priority area for global collaboration is to advance research and development (R&D) for vaccines and medicines that are made available, affordable and accessible worldwide.

There is currently no vaccine and no proven safe and effective direct therapy for COVID-19. There is also the need to accelerate testing capacity and tools in developing countries and LDCs with increased access to low-cost diagnostics. The approach to the management of intellectual property rights by research institutions, pharmaceutical and biotech companies and R&D funders will decisively affect availability and access, as well as the transfer of technology and know-how. Governments must ensure that they have legislative and procedural frameworks in place to enable them to over-come any patent, data exclusivity and trade secret barriers to procure and produce COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines, medicines and other therapeutics.

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