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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Pharma industry disappointed with TRIPS waiver for vaccines – but is there more to come?

Health Industry Hub | June 20, 2022 |
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Pharma News: Friday’s decision at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC12) to endorse a TRIPS (trade-related intellectual property rights) waiver for COVID-19 vaccines sends the wrong message to those carrying out research and development.

Thomas Cueni, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) Director-General, said “The conversations on an intellectual property waiver have been challenging from the beginning, with disregard to evidence and facts. The decision is a disservice to the scientists that left no stone unturned and undermines manufacturing partnerships on every continent. The single biggest factor affecting vaccine scarcity is not intellectual property, but trade. This has not been fully addressed by the World Trade Organisation.”

Medicines Australia CEO, Elizabeth de Somer, said intellectual property is one of the key reasons why multiple, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines could be produced and scaled up so quickly during the height of the pandemic.

“This decision from the WTO Ministerial Conference has disregarded the evidence and distracts from the real barriers that are getting in the way of vaccinating more people around the world.

Call for a horizon scanning framework that is future proof, agile and moves with the age of precision medicine

“Since the start of the pandemic, strong IP framework have supported pharmaceutical companies, scientists, researchers and manufacturers to create safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in record time. This decision sends a dangerous message to our community of amazing researchers and innovators that the intellectual property of their discoveries is a barrier to the pandemic response, when this is absolutely untrue,” she said.

The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume Serum Institute of India (SII) said while patent waivers for COVID vaccines are ‘encouraging’, their demand is declining.

Moreover, without the tech transfer from the vaccine innovator, it will be difficult to make a marketable product. Vaccines are biological products using viruses, and manufacturing involves an extremely complex process. Any change in that process can result in failure to get the right vaccine candidate

According to the IFPMA, IP has supported the fastest development and scale-up of safe and effective vaccines in history, with 13.9 billion COVID-19 vaccines produced to date. The IP framework has provided the basis for more than 380 voluntary partnerships for COVID-19 vaccines to be set up in record time, 88% of which involve technology transfer.

Ms de Somer continued “The emergence of COVID-19 variants and the threat of other future health pandemics mean we should be protecting the systems that enable medical innovation, not tearing them down. The TRIPS waiver pulls apart the very system that supported the fastest development of vaccines and enabled unprecedented collaboration and partnerships.

“More disappointing is that the fact that the WTO have not adequately addressed the real reasons that vaccines are not getting to the people that need them; trade, dose-sharing, distribution and country readiness for administration,” she added.

While the TRIPS waiver on vaccines has been announced, the WTO said negotiations for diagnostics and therapeutics would start in six months as demanded by developed countries.


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