[Ip-health] Stat: WHO director-general endorses a voluntary intellectual property pool to develop Covid-19 products

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Apr 6 22:02:52 PDT 2020


WHO director-general endorses a voluntary intellectual property pool to
develop Covid-19 products

By ED SILVERMAN @Pharmalot
APRIL 6, 2020

Amid the race to find a salve for Covid-19, the World Health Organization
director-general has endorsed the idea of creating a voluntary pool to
collect patent rights, regulatory test data, and other information that
could be shared for developing drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics.

The concept was proposed two weeks ago by Costa Rican government officials
amid mounting concerns that some Covid-19 medical products may not be
accessible for poorer populations. By establishing a voluntary mechanism
under the auspices of the WHO, the goal is to establish a pathway that will
attract numerous governments, as well as industry, universities and
nonprofit organizations.

“I support this proposal, and we are working with Costa Rica to finalize
the details,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a
statement on Monday.

“Poorer countries and fragile economies stand to face the biggest shock
from this pandemic, and leaving anyone unprotected will only prolong the
health crisis and harm economies more. I call on all countries, companies
and research institutions to support open data, open science, and open
collaboration so that all people can enjoy the benefits of science and

The notion had quickly generated enthusiasm from Unitaid, dozens of
academics and advocacy groups, and a European Medicines Agency management
board member. The concept was also favored by the former chief patent
officer at Gilead Sciences, which at times has tussled over access to its
HIV and hepatitis C medicines and is now testing an experimental drug to
fight Covid-19.

Last week, the Medicines Patent Pool, a United Nations-backed agency that
licenses HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C treatments from drug makers in
order to provide access in lower-income countries, expanded its mandate to
include Covid-19 products and contribute to the pool.

For more than a decade, the cost of some medicines has triggered battles
between cash-strapped governments and drug makers, sometimes prompting
battles over patents and repeatedly placing the pharmaceutical industry on
the defensive.

Over the years, a growing number of countries have explored compulsory
licensing. A country may grant a license to a public agency or a generic
drug maker, allowing it to copy a patented medicine without the consent of
the brand-name company that owns the patent. This right was memorialized in
a World Trade Organization agreement known as the Trade-Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS.

But the novel coronavirus has underscored the potential for such struggles
to quickly intensify.

Over the past month, lawmakers in Chile and Ecuador passed resolutions
urging their governments to explore licensing. Canadian lawmakers passed a
bill to speed the process of issuing licenses. Germany extended the right
to suspend patents rights. And Israel approved a license for a pill,
prompting the manufacturer to relinquish patent rights and waive
restrictions to generic supplies on a global basis.

Meanwhile, Roche agreed to release the recipe for a liquid solution that
Dutch laboratories need to run a coronavirus test, after initially refusing
to do so and causing lawmakers to consider licensing. And Gilead asked U.S.
regulators to rescind orphan drug designation for its potential coronavirus
treatment remdesivir following criticism that it would unfairly receive a

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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