Public Health

South Centre Statement – IHRs 2005 Amendment, May 2024

Statement on the Amendment to the International Health Regulations

We congratulate the WHO members for the adoption of the  amendments to the International Health Regulations to advance equity in access to health products, increase collaboration and finance to develop, strengthen and maintain core capacities. Efforts must continue to finalise a pandemic treaty.

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Research Paper 198, 31 May 2024

What Can Cambodia Learn from Thailand and India as It Prepares to Graduate from Least Developed Country Status?

By Brigitte Tenni, Deborah Gleeson, Joel Lexchin, Phin Sovath, and Chalermsak Kittitrakul

Cambodia is expected to graduate from Least Developed Country status soon, at which time it will be required to make patents available for pharmaceutical products and processes to meet its obligations under the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Given its impending transition from LDC status, there is a need to balance Cambodia’s intellectual property (IP) policies and regulations with public health priorities to ensure access to affordable life-saving medicines. This will be critical to achieving universal health coverage, one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This paper examines Cambodia’s IP laws and regulations to identify provisions that could reduce access to affordable generic medicines when it starts granting patents for pharmaceuticals. It systematically compares Cambodia’s IP laws and regulations with those of Thailand and India – two developing countries that have had some successes in preserving access to medicines despite the introduction of pharmaceutical patents. It identifies lessons for Cambodia from the experiences of Thailand and India in implementing TRIPS and using TRIPS flexibilities such as compulsory licensing to ensure access to a sustainable supply of affordable generic medicines. Key recommendations for reform for Cambodia include strengthening the use of preventive and remedial TRIPS flexibilities and removing criminal sanctions for patent infringements. Cambodia should reject any TRIPS-plus provisions in its patent legislation and avoid membership in bilateral or plurilateral trade agreements that include TRIPS-plus provisions as well as signing patent treaties and memorandums of understanding  that may facilitate the granting of unwarranted patents.

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Research Paper 197, 28 May 2024

Compulsory Licensing as a Remedy Against Excessive Pricing of Life-Saving Medicines  

By Behrang Kianzad

The COVID-19 crisis intensified decade-long debates on the interaction between intellectual property rights (IPRs), competition law and access to affordable life-saving treatments and vaccines. Compulsory licensing of patented medicines is a tried-and-tested method to expand access, particularly in a situation of “national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency” within the meaning of Article 31(b) of the TRIPS Agreement. Some legislations, such as European competition law, offer a toolbox for curbing the exercise of IPRs if they would be found in conflict with certain competition rules, such as rules prohibiting excessive pricing by dominant undertakings. The paper analyses the interface between intellectual property law and competition law in general, moving on to the settled case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on this matter. It provides a general overview of legal and economics arguments related to excessive pricing prohibition and the main case law of European competition law on the matter and discusses whether compulsory licensing as a remedy against excessive pricing of patented life-saving pharmaceutical products can be a viable and appropriate remedy. Finally, the paper offers policy recommendations relating to compulsory licensing based on excessive pricing.

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South Centre Statement – WHA77, 27 May 2024

Statement of the South Centre to the 77th WHA

Agenda Item 3

A critical week for global health with the 77th session of the World Health Assembly. For decision, the future of the pandemic instrument and IHR amendment negotiations.

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SC Statement – NAM Health Ministers Meeting, WHA77, 25 May 2024

STATEMENT BY CARLOS CORREA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE SOUTH CENTRE, AT THE VIRTUAL MEETING OF THE MINISTERS OF HEALTH OF THE MEMBER STATES AND OBSERVER STATES OF THE NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT

 25 May 2024

On the sidelines of the 77th session of the World Health Assembly

There is a need for a stronger and more effective WHO, which should be at the centre of norm-setting and moral guidance. NAM can play a key role in shaping the global health agenda. As in the past, the South Centre remains ready to support NAM efforts in this field.

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SouthViews No. 261, 23 April 2024

Proposal for a new Article 11bis in the WHO Pandemic Accord: a Pandemic Technology Transfer Mechanism

by Olga Gurgula and Luke McDonagh

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the failure of voluntary mechanisms during global emergencies and exemplifies the need for effective involuntary technology transfer tools. The WHO Pandemic Accord offers an opportunity to provide an effective mechanism to build upon existing TRIPS flexibilities in the specific pandemic context. We propose a new provision (Article 11bis) that outlines a mechanism on cross-border procedure of non-voluntary technology transfer during a pandemic. This procedure could be invoked in a pandemic scenario in which voluntary technology transfer mechanisms have failed to provide sufficient supplies of a needed pandemic product.

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Documento de investigación 196, 19 de abril de 2024

Licencias obligatorias para exportación: operacionalización en el orden jurídico argentino  

Por Valentina Delich

En el año 2017, entró en vigor la enmienda del Acuerdo sobre los Derechos de Propiedad Intelectual relacionados con el Comercio (ADPIC), por la cual se incluyó el artículo 31 bis en su texto. Esta disposición permite las licencias obligatorias para exportación a terceros países sin o con insuficiente capacidad de producción local. El objetivo es paliar las dificultades de los países sin infraestructura de producción de medicamentos para que puedan hacer un uso efectivo de las licencias obligatorias y así fortalecer el acceso a los medicamentos a un menor precio. Argentina es un país que tiene infraestructura de producción de medicamentos y potencialmente podría devenir en un exportador eficiente. Este documento explora la posible instrumentación del art. 31 bis en la legislación de Argentina, proponiendo incorporar en la ley de patentes nacional el instituto de la licencia obligatoria humanitaria.

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SC Statement to the WHO INB9, March 2024

South Centre Statement at the 9th session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response

March 2024

The South Centre underscores the imperative for an international binding pandemic treaty to prevent the recurrence of past failures like those witnessed during the COVID-19 crisis.

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SouthViews No. 259, 15 de marzo de 2024

¿Adónde va el tratado internacional vinculante negociado en la OMS contra futuras pandemias?

Por Germán Velásquez

La idea de un tratado internacional sobre pandemias es evitar que se repitan los fracasos que se produjeron durante la crisis del COVID-19. Muchas cosas no funcionaron, pero el fracaso más flagrante fue la desigual distribución y acceso a las vacunas, diagnósticos y tratamientos. Se necesita un tratado internacional basado en los principios de equidad, inclusión y transparencia para garantizar un acceso universal y equitativo.

El actual proyecto de texto del “tratado pandémico” está lejos de responder adecuadamente los retos planteados durante la crisis de COVID-19. Los países desarrollados han debilitado el texto inicial. Los países desarrollados han debilitado la versión inicial del borrador, y el texto está ahora lleno de matices innecesarios. La expresión “cuando proceda” y otras formulaciones típicas de las disposiciones voluntarias aparecen ahora repetidamente. Se trata de proteger y garantizar el interés público y la salud de los ciudadanos como un derecho, o de defender los intereses de una industria que pretende enriquecerse sin límites. El tratado contra futuras pandemias será uno de los temas centrales de la próxima Asamblea Mundial de la Salud de la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) en mayo de 2024. Si los países del Sur, que representan la mayoría de los miembros de la OMS, se unen con una visión clara y fuerte de la salud pública y los países del Norte actúan con lucidez, siguiendo las pruebas científicas al tiempo que persiguen la seguridad para todos, el tratado contribuirá al bienestar de las generaciones futuras. Si al final un pequeño grupo de países se opone a un tratado con disposiciones significativas, no debemos olvidar que la OMS es una institución democrática donde existe la posibilidad de votar.

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SouthViews No. 259, 15 mars 2024

Où va le traité international contraignant négocié à l’OMS pour lutter contre les futures pandémies ?

Par Germán Velásquez

L’idée d’un traité international sur les pandémies est d’éviter de répéter les échecs qui se sont produits lors de la crise du COVID-19. Beaucoup de choses n’ont pas fonctionné, mais l’échec le plus flagrant a été la distribution inégale des vaccins, des diagnostics et des traitements, ainsi que l’accès à ces derniers. Un traité international fondé sur les principes d’équité, d’inclusion et de transparence est nécessaire pour garantir un accès universel et équitable.

Le projet de texte actuel du “traité sur les pandémies” est loin de répondre de manière adéquate aux défis rencontrés lors de la crise du COVID-19. Les pays développés ont affaibli la version initiale du projet, et le texte est maintenant plein de nuances inutiles. L’expression « le cas échéant » et d’autres formulations typiques des dispositions volontaires apparaissent désormais à plusieurs reprises. Il s’agit soit de protéger et d’assurer l’intérêt public et la santé des citoyens comme un droit, soit de défendre les intérêts d’une industrie qui cherche à s’enrichir sans limites. Le traité contre les futures pandémies sera l’un des sujets centraux de la prochaine Assemblée mondiale de la santé de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS) en mai 2024. Si les pays du Sud, qui représentent la majorité des membres de l’OMS, s’unissent autour d’une vision claire et forte de la santé publique et que les pays du Nord agissent avec lucidité, en suivant les preuves scientifiques tout en recherchant la sécurité pour tous, le traité contribuera au bien-être des générations futures. Si, en fin de compte, un petit groupe de pays s’oppose à un traité contenant des dispositions significatives, nous ne devons pas oublier que l’OMS est une institution démocratique où il est possible de voter.

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SouthViews No. 259, 15 March 2024

Where is the Binding International Treaty Negotiated at the WHO Against Future Pandemics Going?

by Germán Velásquez

The idea of an international pandemic treaty is to avoid repeating the failures that occurred during the COVID-19 crisis. Many things did not work, but the most glaring failure was the unequal distribution of, and access to, vaccines, diagnostics and treatments. An international treaty based on the principles of equity, inclusiveness and transparency is needed to ensure universal and equitable access.

The current draft text of the “pandemic treaty” is far from adequately responding to the problems faced during the COVID-19 crisis. Developed countries have weakened the initial version of the draft, and the text is now full of unnecessary nuances. The expression “where appropriate” and other such wordings, typical of voluntary provisions, now appear repeatedly. It is a question of either protecting and ensuring the public interest and the health of citizens as a right, or of defending the interests of an industry that seeks to enrich itself without limits. The treaty against future pandemics will be one of the central topics at the next World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2024. If the countries of the South, accounting for the majority of the WHO membership, unite with a clear and strong public health vision and the countries of the North act lucidly, follow scientific evidence while pursuing safety for all, the treaty will contribute to the well-being of future generations. If in the end a small group of countries oppose a treaty with meaningful provisions, we must not forget that the WHO is a democratic institution where there is the possibility to vote.

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