Affordable Medicines

Research Paper 115, July 2020

Special Section 301:US Interference with the Design and Implementation of National Patent Laws

By Dr. Carlos M. Correa

The continuous application of Special Section 301 by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) undermines the rule of law as a fundamental principle of a multilateral system based on the sovereign equality of states and the respect for international law. Interference with foreign countries’ national intellectual property (IP) policies—which have significant socio-economic effects—negates their right to determine independently the level and modalities of protection of such property within the framework and policy space allowed by the international law. This paper examines the patent-related claims made by the USTR in relation to the developing countries on the USTR Priority Watch List. It argues that the regulations and practices identified by the USTR show a legitimate use of the flexibilities provided for by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and that the ignorance of the public interests of the countries concerned (for instance, with regard to access to affordable medicines) has contributed to the discredit (and ineffectiveness) of the Special Section 301.

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Policy Brief 82, July 2020

Examining antimicrobial resistance in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic

By Mirfin Mpundu, Caline Mattar and Mirza Alas

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to strengthen the capacity of health systems not only to be better prepared for the next pandemic but also to address ongoing crises such as antimicrobial resistance. The unfolding crisis due to antimicrobial resistance is, unfortunately, similar to the current health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit at a slower pace. As countries address the pandemic, there is a need to identify interlinkages between the pandemic and antimicrobial resistance and to continue strengthening the actions needed to slow down the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.

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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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Research Paper 114, June 2020

Equitable Access to COVID-19 Related Health Technologies: A Global Priority

By Dr. Zeleke Temesgen Boru

Since COVID-19 was first identified, infections from the virus and the death toll have spiked abysmally. The pandemic has also paralyzed the economies (particularly, global trade, tourism and transport) of many countries. The dire social and psychological ramifications associated with the pandemic are also immense. The threat posed by COVID-19 on global health and the economic downturn resulting thereof necessitates the development of health technologies (such as medicines and vaccines). A global effort to invent new health technologies or the likely application of existing technologies is also underway since the outbreak of the pandemic. Even though the race to develop these technologies can be hailed as a pivotal undertaking, the development of health technologies alone may not expedite equitable access to the outcome of such development. Particularly, the lack of access to health technologies may befall if the conventional model of health technology pricing, which is derived from monopoly rights created by IP protection, is set. However, legal as well as policy tools can be used to overcome such hurdles and ensure global access to health technologies. In this sense, this paper discusses plausible legal and policy options that can help to accelerate access to health technologies targeting COVID-19.

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SouthViews No. 200, 16 June 2020

Making Covid-19 Medical Products Affordable: Voluntary Patent Pool and TRIPS Flexibilities

By Sudip Chaudhuri

The proposal of Costa Rica to create a voluntary pool mechanism for medical products and technologies for COVID-19 has evoked huge interest and optimism. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Costa Rica have followed it up through a Solidarity Call emphasizing the need for voluntary licensing on non-exclusive basis to the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP). The success of a voluntary pool critically depends on the willingness of the patentees to join the pool. In a public health crisis, boundaries of public policy must not be determined by the patentees. MPP will work much better if the patentees are compelled or induced to join the pool. International cooperation is important in this regard. Highlighting the virtues of voluntary measures and promoting MPP without adequate emphasis on the use of compulsory licensing and other TRIPS flexibilities, actually weakens the MPP. In the light of the experience of MPP, the basic objective of this paper is to analyze to what extent voluntary pool mechanisms can be relied upon to make COVID-19 medical products affordable and accessible. It is important to appreciate the achievements of MPP. But the constraints under which it operates, and its limitations must also be kept in mind.

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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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Compilation of Extracts: Selected Country Statements during 73rd WHA

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.

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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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Research Paper 109, May 2020

Non-Violation and Situation Complaints under the TRIPS Agreement: Implications for Developing Countries

By Nirmalya Syam

While the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) provided for the applicability of non-violation and situation complaints to the settlement of disputes in the area of intellectual property (IP), when the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements were adopted in 1994, a moratorium was put in place until WTO Members could agree on the scope and modalities for the application of such complaints. However, for more than two decades, discussions in the TRIPS Council on the subject have remained inconclusive. The biannual WTO Ministerial Conference has granted extensions of the moratorium with regularity. This paper reviews the debate on the applicability of non-violation and situation complaints under the TRIPS Agreement, including the arguments consistently held by two WTO Members that if the moratorium is not extended by consensus, non-violation and situation complaints would become automatically applicable. This paper argues that a consensus decision by the WTO Ministerial Conference is required to determine the scope and modalities and, hence, the applicability of such complaints under the TRIPS Agreement. Even if the moratorium was not extended, the WTO Ministerial Conference should still adopt a decision calling on the TRIPS Council to continue examination of the scope and modalities of such complaints. It also argues that in the absence of an extension of the moratorium on initiating such complaints—and although they would not be applicable—a situation of uncertainty would be created that may lead to a de facto limitation in the use of flexibilities allowed under the TRIPS Agreement.

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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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Research Paper 107, April 2020

Guide for the Granting of Compulsory Licenses and Government Use of Pharmaceutical Patents

By Dr. Carlos M. Correa

Like other rights, patent rights are not absolute. There are situations in which their exercise can be limited to protect public interests. Such situations may arise, for instance, when access to needed pharmaceutical products must be ensured. Compulsory licenses and government use for non-commercial purposes are tools, provided for under most laws worldwide, that can specifically be used to address public health needs. This document is intended to provide legal guidance for the effective use of such tools, consistently with the international law.

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