STATEMENT BY CARLOS M. CORREA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE SOUTH CENTRE, TO THE MEETING OF THE NAM HEALTH MINISTERSON THE OCCASION OF THE 75TH WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY, MAY 20, 2022
The South Centre has closely followed issues concerning access to medicines and the work of the WHO over the years. In the last couple of years, it has provided analyses and advice in connection with the COVID-19 crisis that has so severely affected the members of NAM.
COVID-19 Vaccines as Global Public Goods: between life and profit
By Katiuska King Mantilla and César Carranza Barona
In the context of a health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, the global availability of and access to vaccines are imperative. This research paper provides an analysis from the perspective of international political economy, of the financing of COVID-19 vaccines and of the market strategies adopted by some of the companies that developed them. It notes that the development of vaccines was supported by substantial public funding from countries that later received preferential access to those vaccines through advance purchases. Despite such public support, the vaccines were not deemed as public goods but remained under the control of their developers.
Patent Analysis for Medicines and Biotherapeutics in Trials to Treat COVID-19
by Srividya Ravi
This report provides an analysis of patents covering medicines in trials to treat COVID-19. The aim of the report is to support national patent offices and interested parties in developing countries with information that can serve as guidance for the examination of the claims contained in relevant patents or patent applications.
The medicines considered for the patent analysis in this report are remdesivir, ruxolitinib, favipiravir, molnupiravir and nirmatrelvir, and the biotherapeutics tocilizumab, siltuximab and sarilumab.
South Centre Statement to the WHO Executive Board 150th Session
The South Centre, the intergovernmental organization of 54 developing countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, considers that key outcomes from the work of the 150th Executive Board should include…
The Doha Ministerial Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health on its Twentieth Anniversary
By Nirmalya Syam, Viviana Munoz, Carlos M. Correa and Vitor Ido
This Policy Brief reviews the role of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health in the twenty years since its adoption. It finds that the Doha Declaration has contributed to advance the use of the TRIPS flexibilities to promote public health and should be considered an important subsequent agreement to the TRIPS Agreement, despite the continuing challenges for WTO members to implement the TRIPS flexibilities in full. This brief also analyses the extent to which the Paragraph 6 System that became an amendment of the TRIPS Agreement as a new article 31 bis, pursuant to the Doha Declaration, has facilitated access to medicines and vaccines for countries with none or insufficient pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity. It finds that the system to date has not lived up to its promise. The Policy Brief recommends that WTO members assess and identify the challenges for the full use of the TRIPS flexibilities to promote public health, and advances that supplementary tools will need to be designed to never again allow such inequity in access to life saving vaccines and treatments as in the present COVID-19 pandemic.
Strengthening WHO for Future Health Emergencies while Battling COVID-19: Major Outcomes of the 2021 World Health Assembly
By Nirmalya Syam and Mirza Alas
The 74th World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) took place in May 2021 in a time when developing countries had to confront a substantial surge in COVID-19 infections and fatalities, while continuing to face inadequate access to vaccines. Meanwhile, the majority of the global supplies were secured by a few rich countries, ignoring the pleas of the WHO Secretariat. However, even though discussions around the COVID-19 response and strengthening emergency preparedness and response dominated the Assembly, WHO Member States could not achieve any concrete outcome to addressing the question of equitable access to vaccines and other health technologies for COVID-19. In this context, this policy brief describes some of the major outcomes of the Assembly.
Del SIDA al COVID-19: La OMS ante las crisis sanitarias globales
Por Germán Velásquez
Este documento de investigación es una compilación de artículos de Germán Velásquez publicados por el “Monde Diplomatique” (ediciones francesa y española) entre el 2003 y el 2021. El autor analiza como la OMS enfrentó las grandes crisis sanitarias de los últimos 20 años. El SIDA y la llegada de los primeros antiretrovirales, la gripe H1N1 con el despilfarro del Oseltamivir (nombre de marca “Tamiflu”) y las vacunas que al final fueron destruidas en grandes cantidades, el ébola donde la OMS llegó con cuatro meses de atraso, la hepatitis C y los fármacos que podrían curarla pero fueron lanzados al mercado con precios inaccesibles y, actualmente, la pandemia devastadora del COVID-19 que ha demostrado una vez más la insoportable desigualdad en el acceso a la salud y a las vacunas y tratamientos, entre los países del Norte y los países del Sur.
El denominador común a todas estas crisis sanitarias mundiales ha sido la reacción de los países miembros de la OMS de querer reformar la Organización de tal manera que ésta pueda responder mejor a la crisis del momento. Este es exactamente el movimiento que ha desatado la COVID-19 y el tema y las negociaciones que probablemente nos ocuparán en los próximos años.
Access to Medicines and Vaccines: Implementing Flexibilities Under Intellectual Property Law
This book is an outcome of a partnership between the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Innovation and Competition and the South Centre, which jointly organized a Global Forum on Intellectual Property, Access to Medicine and Innovation in Munich on 9– 10 December 2019.
This book examines topics of particular relevance for shaping intellectual property regimes that take into account public health concerns. It provides not only deep analyses but options for the interpretation of existing regulations or the adoption of new legislation that, being consistent with the TRIPS Agreement, can allow the judiciary and policy makers to take such concerns into account. In different chapters, the book addresses various dimensions of the flexibilities allowed under the TRIPS Agreement. Although there is a significant literature and statements on the subject, such as the ‘Declaration on Patent Protection. Regulatory Sovereignty under TRIPS’ elaborated under the auspices of the MPI, the book contains new reflections and examines recent developments in case law and legislation.
The covered issues include how the TRIPS Agreement can be interpreted to implement its flexibilities, the use of competition law to promote access to medicines, the role of cooperation in the examination of patent applications, patentability requirements, the impact of TRIPS plus provisions (such as the linkage between patents and drug regulatory approvals), the patentability in the area of CRISPR genome editing technologies, as well as an analysis of the scope of exceptions and limitations to exclusive rights provided for by the Agreement, such as the exhaustion of rights and parallel imports, compulsory licenses, the ‘Bolar exemption’, and procedural mechanisms like pre-grant oppositions. The implications of the protection of test data are also examined.
While celebrating the opportunity of working together in organizing the Global Forum, we hope that this book will assist policy makers and judges and provide new inputs for academic research. While, as mentioned, there is a differentiated impact of intellectual property rights depending on the level of development of the country where it applies, the reconciliation of such rights with public health interests, particularly in relation to access to medicines, is a matter of concern for all countries.
Compulsory licensing vs. the IP waiver: what is the best way to end the COVID-19 pandemic?
By Olga Gurgula
This policy brief examines the currently discussed proposals at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that aim to resolve the problem of the production shortages of COVID-19 vaccines. This includes the two key submissions, i.e. the proposal by South Africa and India on the Intellectual Property (IP) waiver, partially supported by the United States (US), and the European Union (EU) proposal to clarify the use of compulsory licensing. While each of these mechanisms may help to improve the production of COVID-19 vaccines to various degrees, there is intense debate about which of these proposals is the most effective. This policy brief outlines the strengths and weaknesses of each of them with a view to informing the policy decisions by WTO Members on the best way to promptly accelerate the vaccine production that is urgently needed today. It concludes that the proposed IP waiver is a more effective solution for addressing the current emergency.
Canada’s Political Choices Restrain Vaccine Equity: The Bolivia-Biolyse Case
By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD
The COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed more than 4.6 million lives and caused significant economic harm. The Coronavirus is still circulating to cause further damage. In this context, this research paper argues that Canada’s political choices have restrained the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Part I evaluates Canada’s nationalistic approach of procuring COVID-19 vaccines more than its needs through secretly concluded pre-purchase agreements with brand-name pharmaceutical corporations as advised by a secretly born task force having clear ties with the vaccine industry. Part II examines Canada’s wavering and non-committal position on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Waiver proposal. Canada’s confusing position of ‘not blocking’ the TRIPS Waiver while not supporting it either lacks legal clarity. Part III analyses the Bolivia-Biolyse case which highlights clear contradictions between statements and actions of the Canadian government. Since March 2021, Biolyse Pharma has been hamstrung by the first step in Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR), where a preliminary requirement is that the COVID-19 vaccine must be added to Schedule 1 of the Canadian federal Patent Act before applying for an export-oriented compulsory licence. The Bolivia-Biolyse case is important as a test case for the CAMR system. Workability of this export-oriented compulsory licensing regime is critical for low- and middle-income countries in the Global South lacking the domestic capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. The Bolivia-Biolyse case is also important as Canada has argued at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the TRIPS Waiver is not required because the existing mechanisms are working as intended.
This Semester Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st January to 30 June 2021. It is intended to provide information, organized by themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the Centre’s Work Program, meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or provide analytical support for negotiations taking place in various international fora, and conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated. It also informs about publications of the outcomes of internal policy-oriented research and external contributions made as a result of cooperation with the Centre.