Research Papers

Research Paper 130, April 2021

Misappropriation of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge: Challenges Posed by Intellectual Property and Genetic Sequence Information

By Nirmalya Syam and Thamara Romero

Improper acquisition of genetic resources (GRs) and associated traditional knowledge (TK) without prior informed consent and on mutually agreed terms, in accordance with national laws of the country providing the GR and associated TK, as well as without any fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from their utilization, has been a significant concern for developing countries. Intellectual property (IP) rights can serve as one of the means of such misappropriation. One of the mechanisms sought by developing countries to prevent it consists in the establishment of an effective multilateral legal mechanism for defensive protection against misappropriation, primarily through the introduction of a mandatory disclosure requirement about the source and country of origin of such resources in intellectual property right (IPR) applications. These negotiations have been taking place in different fora. However, there is an increased sense of frustration due to the lack of progress in achieving consensus during the last twenty years. Meanwhile, new modes of misappropriation of GRs are evolving through the use of genetic sequence information and data of GRs, and by applying technological developments in synthetic biology. This paper discusses the use of IP and genetic sequence information and data as modes of misappropriation of GRs and associated TK and the deficits of the current international legal framework in preventing such misappropriation. This paper also maps the state of play of the ongoing negotiations in the context of these issues in different fora, and, in conclusion, proposes possible alternative approaches for addressing these pressing issues at the multilateral level.

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Research Paper 129, March 2021

The TRIPS waiver proposal: an urgent measure to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccines

by Henrique Zeferino de Menezes

Despite multilateral commitments and political statements of solidarity and cooperation to guarantee the availability and access to COVID-19 vaccines (and other relevant technologies for control and treatment), the scenario after the beginning of vaccination is marked by the deepening of vaccine nationalism, the concentration of inputs and vaccines production, and the uneven distribution of options of vaccine doses already approved for use. This pattern of production restrictions and unequal access will lead to an increase in international inequalities, leaving a large part of the world to have access to vaccines not until 2024. While advanced purchase agreements (APAs) among pharmaceutical companies and some developed countries are multiplying, the proposed mechanisms for voluntary licensing of technologies and the COVAX Facility do not achieve their goal of democratizing access to vaccines. In this sense, the current TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver proposal seems to be the political and institutional response with the greatest potential to guarantee the scaling of the production of pharmaceutical inputs, allowing the adoption of a comprehensive strategy to ensure timely, sufficient, and affordable access to all technologies developed to fight COVID-19.

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Research Paper 128, February 2021

Intellectual Property in the EU–MERCOSUR FTA: A Brief Review of the Negotiating Outcomes of a Long-Awaited Agreement

Roxana Blasetti

In collaboration with Juan I. Correa

This paper provides a first glance at the Intellectual Property Chapter of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the European Union (EU). It is not intended to provide an exhaustive analysis of the commitments involved but rather to briefly review the scope of intellectual property in the bi-regional negotiations, which took more than 20 years and ended in June 2019 with an “agreement in principle.” It also aims to put the Chapter into context with the whole commitments covered by the FTA and, finally, to highlight its most relevant aspects.

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Document de Recherche 121, Janvier 2021

Les réformes de l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé a l’époque de COVID-19

Par Germán Velásquez

Tout au long de ses 70 ans d’histoire, l’OMS a connu plusieurs réformes dirigées par plusieurs Directeurs généraux, tels que Halfdan Mahler à la Conférence d’Almaty sur les soins de santé primaires, en 1978, Gro Harlem Brundtland avec son appel à « tendre la main au secteur privé », en 1998, et Margaret Chan avec son débat inachevé sur le rôle des «acteurs non étatiques », en 2012. Une fois de plus, la crise sanitaire de 2020 a mis en évidence la fragilité de l’organisation et a révélé que l’OMS ne dispose pas des instruments et mécanismes juridiques nécessaires pour mettre en œuvre ses normes et lignes directrices, et que son financement n’est pas durable et adéquat pour répondre au défi de la COVID-19. Ce document cherche à identifier les principaux problèmes rencontrés par l’OMS et les mesures nécessaires qu’une réforme de l’Organisation devrait prendre.

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Document de Recherche 118, Janvier 2021

Reconsidérations sur la fabrication mondiale et locale de produits médicaux après le COVID-19 

Par Germán Velásquez

La crise sanitaire mondiale sans précédent provoquée par la pandémie de coronavirus (COVID-19), au cours du premier semestre 2020, ramène avec une urgence particulière la discussion sur la production pharmaceutique locale. La crise du COVID-19 a mis en évidence l’interdépendance de la production mondiale de médicaments—aucun pays n’étant autosuffisant. De nombreux pays industrialisés prennent la décision de rapatrier ou de développer la production d’ingrédients pharmaceutiques actifs (IPA). De nombreux gouvernements commencent à parler de souveraineté pharmaceutique et/ou de sécurité sanitaire. Si cela devient une réalité, les pays en développement devront développer et/ou renforcer la production locale de médicaments et de vaccins. La guerre pour obtenir le futur vaccin pour COVID-19 ne semble pas facile avec ces nouveaux développements.

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Research Paper 127, December 2020

Revisiting the Question of Extending the Limits of Protection of Pharmaceutical Patents and Data Outside the EU – The Need to Rebalance

By Daniel Opoku Acquah

The European Union (EU) has instituted internal and external measures aimed at protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights. In the area of pharmaceutical patents, the Union has also sought to protect its industries through patent term extension and data exclusivity. Recent EU free trade agreements (FTAs) with developing countries contain chapters on intellectual property that extend patent terms and data exclusivity for pharmaceutical products. Such acts further prolong the lifespan of protection given to existing products and limit generic market entry. I identify the issue as one of “cross-pollination” of laws and argue that since similar laws exist in the internal regime of the EU, incorporating them into the EU would not be too technically difficult. However, to the extent that this regime is simulated in developing countries, implementation would damage the health sectors and economies of these countries. I therefore propose that developing countries should not be forced to adopt such laws through FTAs. If they are forced to adopt the laws after all, there should be a compulsory inclusion of (1) a clause on transitional arrangements for developing countries specific to intellectual property; (2) a clause that clearly links the objectives for intellectual property protection and enforcement (in this context, patent term extension and data exclusivity) to balance the promotion of technological innovation with access to medicines; and (3) a clause on Bolar exemption and a manufacturing waiver.

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Research Paper 126, December 2020

How Civil Society Action can Contribute to Combating Antimicrobial Resistance

By Mirza Alas Portillo

One of the key groups of actors that must be recognized for their influential role in shaping health policy outcomes are civil society organizations (CSOs). The antimicrobial resistance (AMR) space is no exception. AMR is one of the most significant health threats of our time, and many CSOs have had a critical role in shaping the national, regional and global responses to this health threat. However, CSOs working in the AMR space have received little financial support. In the final report submitted to the UN Secretary-General, the United Nations Inter-Agency Coordination Group (IACG) on AMR recommended increasing collaboration, as doing so is necessary for effective action and is an essential part of tackling AMR. IACG also provided specific recommendations for strengthening the engagement of CSOs. While the need for this engagement is broadly recognized, there is limited literature documenting how CSOs have been involved in shaping AMR policies. Increased evidence can strengthen the case for expanding financial support to CSOs work on AMR. A critical look into how CSOs are spearheading campaigns to tackle AMR and promoting accountability through monitoring governments’, international organizations’ and other actors’ AMR-related commitments, particularly in developing countries, would be especially useful.

This paper aims to contribute to the analysis of CSOs involvement in the global AMR response. It begins by defining what constitutes a CSO and offers examples of how CSOs have contributed to addressing other critical health issues to draw lessons for handling AMR. It then undertakes a case analysis of a prominent CSO coalition, the Antibiotic Resistance Coalition (ARC), and describes that organization’s essential contributions in the AMR space. Finally, the paper offers reflections on why CSO participation in the AMR space needs to be further enhanced and supported.

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Documento de Investigación 107, Diciembre 2020

Guía para la concesión de licencias obligatorias y uso gubernamental de patentes farmacéuticas  

Por Carlos M. Correa

Al igual que otros derechos, los derechos de patente no son absolutos. Hay situaciones en las que su ejercicio puede limitarse para proteger los intereses públicos. Esas situaciones pueden surgir, por ejemplo, cuando debe garantizarse el acceso a los productos farmacéuticos necesarios. Las licencias obligatorias y el uso gubernamental con fines no comerciales son instrumentos, previstos en la mayoría de las leyes de todo el mundo, que pueden utilizarse específicamente para atender las necesidades de salud pública. El presente documento tiene por objeto proporcionar orientación jurídica para el uso eficaz de esos instrumentos, de conformidad con el derecho internacional.

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Research Paper 125, December 2020

Designing Pro-Health Competition Policies in Developing Countries  

By Vitor Henrique Pinto Ido

Competition law and policy has become an important tool for countries to promote access to pharmaceuticals. How can countries design and enforce competition policies that are suitable to the particularities of developing countries? What are the main anti-competitive tactics in the pharmaceutical sector, and how should they be dealt with? This paper deals with these issues, taking into account the socio-economic relevance of access to health products. It finds that developing countries should apply their competition laws in the pharmaceutical sector more actively, and that there is ample policy space under international law to do so. It provides an overview of the way in which competition policies have been applied in some industrialized and developing countries and explores how such policies can be designed and implemented in the context of developing countries.

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Research Paper 124, November 2020

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.

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Research Paper 123, November 2020

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas: One Step Forward in the Promotion of Human Rights for the Most Vulnerable  

By Maria Natalia Pacheco Rodriguez and Luis Fernando Rosales Lozada

Peasants and other people living rural areas are among the most vulnerable in the world. In 2015, an estimated of 736 million people in the world lived in extreme poverty, of which 589 million – 80 per cent – live in rural areas. Despite increasing urbanization in the last decades, almost 45 per cent of the global population still lives in areas defined as rural, and most of them are among the poorest of the world. The situation is most likely worsening because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas by the supporting vote of a vast majority of countries. There are many reasons to consider the Declaration as one of the most relevant actions in the realm of human rights law taken by the United Nations in recent years. Some of them are the recognition of peasants as specific subjects of rights; the reaffirmation of existing standards tailored for the reality of people living in rural areas; and the development of international law to address existing gaps in the protection of their rights in complex subject matters such as the right to land, the right to seeds, and the right to means of production. In underscoring the importance of the Declaration for the world, this research paper narrates the process of construction of the Declaration, its contributions to international human rights law and stresses on its potential for poverty reduction and food security, in line with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the strategies of the UN Decade on Family Farming.

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Documento de Investigación 121, Noviembre 2020

Las reformas de la Organización Mundial de la Salud en la época de COVID-19

Por Germán Velásquez

A lo largo de sus 70 años de historia la OMS ha pasado por varias reformas lideradas por varios directores generales, como Halfdan Mahler en la Conferencia de Alma ata sobre la atención primaria de salud, 1978, Gro Harlem Brundtland con su « reach out to the private sector » 1998, Margaret Chan con su inconcluso debate sobre el rol de « los autores no estatales » 2012 . Una vez mas, y de forma contundente la crisis sanitaria del 2020 pone en evidencia la fragilidad de la Organización y nos revela que la OMS no tiene los instrumentos y mecanismos legales necesarios para aplicar sus normas y orientaciones y que su manera de financiamiento no es sostenible y adecuada para responder al desafío de la COVID-19. Este documento trata de identificar cuales son los problemas principales de que sufre la OMS y cuales serian las medidas necesarias que una reforma de la Organización tendría que abordar.

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