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Call for Action: Intellectual Property and Trade Measures to Address the Covid-19 Crisis by the South Centre
The South Centre views with concern the attempts by some governments and industry players to monopolize the availability of treatments, diagnostics, medicines, medical supplies and devices needed for their own nationalist agenda or to maximize profit, ahead of societal interest in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. The private enforcement of patents and government trade restrictions may pose a dire threat to the containment of this global public health emergency. Governments should act swiftly to put in place legislation and plans to ensure that patents and trade measures do not become barriers for access to those products.
COVID-19 PANDEMIC: ACCESS TO PREVENTION AND TREATMENT IS A MATTER OF NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
Open letter from Carlos Correa, Executive Director of the South Centre, to the Director-Generals of the World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization.
Compulsory Licenses and Government Use of Patented Medicines: Precedents Relevant to Address COVID-19
To meet public health needs, such as in the current COVID-19 emergency, governments can use compulsory licenses and government use as a tool for procurement and import of patented medicines. These mechanisms are provided for in most laws worldwide. The WTO TRIPS Agreement, as reaffirmed by the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, recognises the right of WTO members to grant compulsory licenses and their freedom to determine the grounds upon which such licenses may be granted. The table provides information of instances of their use.
Message from the South Centre at the launch of the “Solidarity Call To Action” by the President of Costa Rica and the Director-General of the WHO
The architecture for access to medicines and vaccines, which is already complex to manage in normal times, requires even more structured actions in times of a pandemic by the scale of the demand and the urgency in meeting it. This call for solidarity to bring together the technologies and treatments related to COVID 19 is part of the necessary solution. It complements other available instruments for States to facilitate access to prevention and treatment for the population, including through the use of the flexibilities of the WTO TRIPS Agreement.
Trade Measures Adopted by Countries in Response to COVID-19
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many WTO members have adopted several measures affecting trade. Some are trade liberalizing; others are trade restrictive. South Centre has elaborated a worksheet that compiles these measures (updated till 16 April) based on available sources of information. The compilation does not intend to be exhaustive. However, it may help members to have information about the landscape of trade measures that may affect them.
Compilation of Extracts from Selected Country Statements during 73rd World Health Assembly supporting Access to Health Products on COVID-19
The compilation below was done on the basis of published statements on the WHO website (https://apps.who.int/gb/statements/WHA73/) and the speeches delivered orally for those delegations which have not submitted their statements. This is a non-official document for information only.
The COVID-19 Pandemic: R&D and Intellectual Property Management for Access to Diagnostics, Medicines and Vaccines (Policy Brief 73, April 2020)
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.
La pandémie de COVID-19 : R&D et gestion de la propriété intellectuelle pour l’accès aux tests diagnostiques, aux médicaments et aux vaccins (Rapport sur les politiques 73, Mai 2020)
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.
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 (Informe Sobre Políticas 73, Mayo 2020)
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.
Rethinking R&D for Pharmaceutical Products After the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Shock (Policy Brief 75, April 2020)
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.
Repensando la I+D para productos farmacéuticos después del choque de la Coronavirus COVID-19 (Informe sobre políticas 75, Mayo 2020)
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.
COVID-19 and WTO: Debunking Developed Countries’ Narratives on Trade Measures (Policy Brief 77, May 2020)
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.
The 73rd World Health Assembly and Resolution on COVID-19: Quest of Global Solidarity for Equitable Access to Health Products (Policy Brief 77, May 2020)
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.
Will post COVID-19 pandemic lead to a climate compatible, more just, resilient and sustainable society? (SouthViews 194, 7 May 2020)
By Youba Sokona
As a result of the economic shutdown and physical lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions, in particular CO2, have decreased and air pollution levels have seriously dropped. However, the temporary reduction of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the pandemic is not to be celebrated as it is not a result of deliberate climate and sustainable development policy. People who are the most vulnerable, most marginalized, and least empowered are the hardest hit by both COVID-19 and climate change. Both crises require robust scientific, evidence-based, accurate information in order to inform adequate policies and actions. They are global in nature and as such need global participation at all levels as well as strong international cooperation and transparency for their resolution.
COVID-19: An Opportunity to Fix Dysfunctional Biomedical R&D System (SouthViews 195, 14 May 2020)
By Sreenath Namboodiri
Failures of the patent system to meet the public health priorities demand a new approach in research and development (R&D) financing and incentive to pharmaceutical innovations. An R&D model delinking the cost of R&D from the price of the product is the way forward.
Taxing the Digital Economy to Fund the COVID-19 Response (SouthViews 196, 22 May 2020)
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Daniel Uribe Teran
The COVID-19 pandemic has weakened global economic growth, raising pressures on revenue authorities to fund the fiscal stimulus necessary to contain the spread of the virus and provide income support to affected households. Accordingly, countries are taking national measures to tax the digital economy as highly digitalized businesses are seeing a rise in sales, subscribers and profits owing to the work from home lockdown measures. The three main policy responses undertaken are digital service taxes, nexus rules based on significant economic presence and withholding taxes on digital transactions. These are briefly summarized here and elaborated in detail in a forthcoming research paper by the South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI).
The post-Covid world needs a new social contract (SouthViews 197, 22 May 2020)
By Alfred de Zayas
The post-Covid world requires a new social contract. The United Nations Secretary-General should convene a World Conference on Post-Covid Recovery based on multilateralism and international solidarity. This entails a paradigm shift in the prevailing economic, trade and social models. Governments bear responsibility for their unwise and inequitable budgetary allocations, which prioritized military expenditures over investment in health, education and people-centered infrastructures. A new functional paradigm on human rights should discard the skewed and artificial division of rights into those of the first, second and third generations and impose new categories of enabling rights, inherent rights, procedural rights and end rights so as to ensure human dignity and development for all.
South Centre Statement to G24 (SouthNews No. 317, 14 April 2020)
The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a major health calamity with mounting humanitarian costs but also the biggest economic crisis since the Second World War. Immediate debt relief is needed for poor countries with unsustainable debt. The global pandemic requires a global solution and solidarity.
The COVID-19 Pandemic: Intellectual Property Management for Access to Diagnostics, Medicines and Vaccines (SouthNews No. 319, 8 May 2020)
By Viviana Muñoz Tellez and Vitor Ido
The South Centre held an open webinar with Dr. Carlos Correa, Executive Director, and Dr. Viviana Munoz Tellez, Coordinator of the Health, Intellectual Property and Biodiversity (HIPB) Program, on 30 April 2020 to discuss access to diagnostics, medicines and vaccines for addressing the Covid-19 pandemic. There is an urgent need to ensure that innovations in medical technologies for Covid-19 go hand in hand with affordable access to these, for all. The main principle to move forward is recognition of these technologies and know how as global public goods.
South Centre Statement at the WHA73 (SouthNews No. 321, 18 May 2020)
Message from the South Centre to the 73rd World Health Assembly
Today we are facing a global health, economic and social crisis, the most serious in the last hundred years. The resolution adopted by this World Health Assembly on COVID-19 should have been more ambitious given the dimension of the current crisis. The response to an exceptional challenge must be exceptional. The COVID-19 pandemic forces us to reflect on whether many health systems and the World Health Organization (WHO) itself were prepared to face this crisis.
Costa Rica and Chile announced an open, collaborative platform to combat COVID-19 (SouthNews No. 322, 19 May 2020)
By Mirza Alas
On Friday, May 15th the World Health Organization (WHO) held its press briefing for the World Health Assembly on COVID-19. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, noted that the WHO had received a proposal from Costa Rica, and had accepted to assist to set up a health technology repository for vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and any other tools that may work against COVID-19. A platform for open, collaborative sharing of knowledge, data and intellectual property on existing and new health tools to combat COVID-19 will be launched. Dr. Tedros noted that new health tools would not end the pandemic without equitable access to them. Moreover, traditional market models will not be able to deliver at the scale that is needed to cover the entire globe; emphasizing solidarity within and between countries and the private sector is essential to overcome these difficult times. Dr. Tedros made a call for leaders to come together.
WHO/UNICEF webinar training on WASH for health care facilities (South Centre News on AMR 38, 8 April 2020)
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are currently organizing a mini training series through webinars to help increase capacity related to water, sanitation and hygiene interventions (WASH) for health care facilities (HCF) as guidance for COVID-19. As WASH interventions are critical in preventing all infections, they are a vital element in addressing antimicrobial resistance, in addition to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Pandemic: Intellectual Property Management for Access to Diagnostics, Medicines and Vaccines (Webinar), 30 April 2020
Developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in particular in Africa are especially vulnerable to the unfolding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. A priority area for global collaboration is to ensure that diagnostics, vaccines and medicines 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, consistently with the TRIPS Agreement, any patent, data exclusivity and trade secret barriers to procure and produce COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines, medicines and other therapeutics. This webinar provided participants with information on recent South Centre Covid-19 publications.
This article was tagged: Coronavirus, COVID-19, Pandemic