Member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) recently agreed to a waiver of intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19 vaccines as part of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. Included in this unnecessary and harmful decision, countries were given six months to decide whether to expand the waiver to COVID-19 treatments and diagnostics.
PhRMA President and CEO Steve Ubl penned an op-ed this week in Modern Healthcare calling on the Biden administration “to prevent the further erosion of IP rights.” Biopharmaceutical manufacturers continue to fight this virus and we need to encourage more innovation, not undermine it. Twenty-eight PhRMA member companies collectively have more than 150 unique products in clinical trials to treat COVID-19. The global IP system has enabled America’s world-leading biopharmaceutical industry to innovate and produce safe and effective vaccines and treatments in record time.
Excerpts from the op-ed include:
- “Top trade officials from countries all over the world, including the U.S., recently gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, and waived certain intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines. Their decision undermines the very IP rights that enabled hundreds of collaborations to produce vaccines on a global scale.
And unfortunately, global commitments to protect IP could take an even bigger hit, as the World Trade Organization considers expanding the waiver beyond COVID-19 vaccines to therapeutics and tests. It’s up to the Biden administration to prevent the further erosion of IP rights.”
- “[L]ow vaccine uptake exists because of challenges related to distribution and administration—everything from vaccine hesitancy to inadequate refrigeration capacity to trade barriers.”
- “Simply put, endorsing this waiver was a publicity stunt that distracts global leaders from those real challenges. It will not add a single safe and effective vaccine to the already more-than-adequate vaccine stockpiles nor end this pandemic sooner.”
- “The Biden administration has a chance to limit the damage by ensuring the WTO doesn’t expand the waiver to COVID-19 treatments and tests, in addition to vaccines. Such an expansion could threaten the more than 700 COVID-19-related therapies currently in development, which, if the waiver proceeds, may never make it to market.
Rather than expanding the intellectual property waiver, policymakers should focus on solving the distribution and administration barriers preventing patients around the world from accessing the global surplus of lifesaving innovations that America’s world-leading industry already has produced.”