MSF praises SA's call for no patents on Covid-19 medical products during pandemic

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says SA's call to the World Trade Organisation to allow countries not to enforce patents on Covid-19 drugs and technologies for the duration of the pandemic is bold.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says SA's call to the World Trade Organisation to allow countries not to enforce patents on Covid-19 drugs and technologies for the duration of the pandemic is bold.
Image: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders, MSF) has hailed SA's call to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to allow countries the choice not to enforce patents on Covid-19 drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and other technologies as a “landmark move”.

SA together with India recently appealed to the WTO to allow countries to choose to neither grant nor enforce patents and other intellectual property on tools and medicines while the world fights the pandemic.

This would ensure that all people have access to much-needed Covid-19 medical products.

“This bold step is akin to efforts by governments nearly 20 years ago, which spearheaded the use of affordable generic HIV/Aids medicines, and, if approved, could signal a major turning point in countries’ responses to the pandemic,” MSF said.

“A global pandemic is no time for business as usual, and there is no place for patents or corporate profiteering as long as the world is faced with the threat of Covid-19,” said the organisation's Leena Menghaney.

“During the pandemic, treatment providers and governments have had to grapple with intellectual property barriers to essential products such as masks, ventilator valves and reagents for test kits.

“With this bold action, India and SA have shown that governments want to be back in the driver’s seat when it comes to ensuring all people can have access to needed Covid-19 medical products, medicines and vaccines, so that more lives can be saved.”

“We urge all governments to support this life-saving move by India and SA to make sure human lives are prioritised and countries can tackle this pandemic by scaling up every Covid-19 medical tool that exists,” said Candice Sehoma, MSF access campaign advocacy officer in SA.

“Nobody can afford to let corporations that have been supported by billions in publicly-funded research money to simply pursue their bottom-line interests without regard to global Covid-19 needs. This pandemic will not be over until it’s over for everyone.”

WTO member countries can seek a waiver from certain obligations in WTO treaties under exceptional circumstances.

If members agree on the waiver, countries can choose not to grant or enforce IP (patents, industrial designs, copyright and trade secrets) related to all Covid-19 medical products and technologies.

“Emerging biologic medicines, including repurposed and new antiviral monoclonal antibodies currently in Covid-19 clinical trials, are under patent protection in many developing countries such as Brazil, SA, India, Indonesia, China and Malaysia,” said MSF.

“This means that if these therapeutics show clear efficacy, production and supply by multiple manufacturers in different countries would be blocked unless governments take early actions to remove such barriers.”

TimesLIVE


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