This site is intended for Healthcare Professionals only.

As Covid patent war rages on, pharma group seeks fairer future access


Share post:

An alliance of companies or pharma group has pledged to ensure equitable access to vaccines and treatments for pandemics, as the friction around intellectual property rights for Covid-19 interventions between the pharmaceutical industry and developing nations endures.

At the heart of the plan is a commitment to set aside part of the production of vaccines and treatments upfront for vulnerable populations in low-income countries when the next pandemic arises, given how fragmented access to Covid tools has left many populations unprotected.

In order to do better next time – and without knowing which companies will develop the first drugs and vaccines for the next pandemic – having the industry collectively make this commitment is potentially transformative, said Thomas Cueni, head of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA).

The pledge, called the Berlin Declaration, was made on July 19 by members of the global pharmaceutical industry group that include many of the companies involved in developing Covid interventions, such as AstraZeneca, GSK, Moderna, Pfizer and Merck.

The declaration is not legally binding.

However, if a company that signed on reneges on its vow, it would face grave consequences in the court of public opinion, said Cueni.

IFPMA members have unanimously agreed to ensure that future authorized pandemic interventions will be made available and affordable in countries of all income levels, using a combination of approaches including donations, not-for-profit supply, voluntary licenses or tiered pricing.

“We have to humbly admit even if the industry does that, it needs others to play along,” said Cueni, underscoring the need for governments and policymakers to make sure the deployment of interventions is not thwarted by export bans.

Anna Marriott, policy lead for the People’s Vaccine Alliance and health policy manager at Oxfam, said it was hard to take advice from the pharmaceutical industry given many companies have repeatedly demonstrated over the pandemic that they will pursue profit over equitable supply.

“I just don’t think we can believe a word that they propose,” she said.

Patent war

The Berlin declaration also asserts that the industry’s intellectual property (IP) rights should be preserved.

Developed nations with major pharmaceutical producers, and groups like IFPMA, argue that diluting these protections risks undermining the industry’s ability to respond to health crises.

It discourages research and could potentially unravel broader patents for interventions used to combat other conditions, given many Covid tests and drugs are also used to detect and treat other infectious diseases, said Cueni.

But proponents of such waivers, like India, South Africa and developing countries which have run a protracted campaign seeking IP waivers, suggest the move could overcome legal barriers preventing them from producing their own Covid vaccines and treatments.

Last month, a provisional deal limited to a partial waiver of IP rights for vaccines was adopted, but a new battle may be looming at the World Trade Organization over extending the waiver to treatments and tests.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Current Issue June 2024

Related articles

How pharmacists can help children and young people with asthma: 2024 AskAboutAsthma campaign highlights

The 2024 #AskAboutAsthma campaign calls on pharmacists to take an active role in improving asthma management and outcomes...

Huxley Europe relaunches HuxQ10 Capsules with triple certification

The relaunch underscores Huxley Europe's commitment to health and welfare, offering specially developed formulas for users with dietary...

Alastair Buxton outlines vision for Community Pharmacy at Westminster Health Forum

Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at CPE, outlines critical issues and solutions at the Westminster Health Forum,...

Food prices remain UK consumers’ top concern, FSA report finds

Consumers worried about food affordability were more likely to take food safety risks to save money The Food...