International locations need to purchase the mental property of vaccine producers to battle the pandemic

Lawrence General Hospital RN Delana Asaro is pulling doses of the Moderna vaccine in a separate room to save time in the pods on January 11, 2021 in Lawrence, MA.

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With the death toll from the coronavirus reaching nearly 2.1 million, countries around the world are trying to vaccinate their populations. However, with soaring demand and limited supply, they are looking for ways to expedite this urgent call to action. As a result, many countries have applied to the World Health Organization for compulsory licensing of Covid-19 vaccine patents.

The severity of the coronavirus crisis has led many to argue that Covid-19 prevention and treatment products should be global public goods. This “compulsory licensing” approach has gained wide support and has been supported by countries such as South Africa and India. A compulsory license overrides a patent holder’s monopoly over the manufacture and delivery of the product. Many countries, from Israel to Chile, have used this practice to defend against pandemics or against serious diseases.

Last October, Moderna, a pioneer in the development of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines and therapeutics, announced that it would not enforce patent rights on its coronavirus vaccine during the pandemic. The commitment was praised by intellectual property activist Jamie Love of Knowledge Ecology International, who said Moderna’s promise “should be kept by every manufacturer”. Moderna has also announced that it will provide open access to patents for the “pandemic” and stands ready to out-license the same intellectual property once the pandemic is over.

This is an example of the efforts of public and private actors to join forces around the world to develop and manufacture therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics to ensure equitable access. Measures include the obligation to non-exclusive and royalty-free licensing or filing of patent protection notices in some or all jurisdictions, the publication of scientific data on an unrestricted basis, the publication of technical specifications of important equipment (e.g. ventilators) and knowledge sharing.

In May, the World Health Organization officially launched a volunteer pool to collect patent rights, regulatory test data, and other information that could be exchanged for the development of drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics to fight Covid-19. The voluntary pool concept was originally proposed by Costa Rican government officials as there are growing concerns that some Covid-19 medical devices may not be accessible to poorer populations.

Α A similar proposal was made by Greece last spring that the Member States of the European Union should jointly acquire patent rights for vaccines against Covid-19 to ensure that, if they are effective, they are quickly distributed to those in need across the bloc. A key figure behind this proposal is Elias Mossialos, professor of health policy at the London School of Economics and a representative of Greece to international organizations dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

CNBC reached out to Pfizer and AstraZeneca for comments on the matter but did not hear a response from presstime.

A nurse prepares a syringe of Covid-19 vaccine during a vaccination campaign in a nursing home in Athens.

LOUISA GOULIAMAKI | AFP | Getty Images

According to Mossialos, the speed of a country’s exit from the pandemic will depend on its preparation for the spread of antivirus technologies. “Successful strategies depend on the effective and equitable diffusion of these technologies. To ensure that this is done in a way that does not hamper private investment in research and development, countries could jointly acquire patent rights for these technologies. This allows innovators to be rewarded fairly for their efforts and to encourage further broad business engagement while translating Covid-19 technologies into global public goods that can be quickly and fairly distributed to those in need, “he said.

According to Mossialos, this thinking outside the box should be reserved for crisis situations like this one. “We have seen huge monetary incentives in economies and other investments in the response to Covid-19 that are far more expensive than intellectual property rights payments. The health and economic benefits of these intellectual property rights purchases would surely outweigh the cost. ” he added.

Compulsory licensing of the Covid vaccine

In March last year, the Chilean parliament unanimously passed a resolution declaring that the global coronavirus outbreak warrants the use of compulsory licensing to facilitate access to vaccines, medicines, diagnostics, devices, consumables and other technologies necessary for the monitoring, prevention, detection, diagnosis are useful and treatment of people who are infected with the coronavirus in Chile. In the same month, Israel issued mandatory patent licenses for an HIV drug called Kaletra, which is currently being tested for effectiveness in treating Covid-19, including in combination with other products. The license allows the drug to be imported from a generic manufacturer.

Some believe that this path should be pursued in a coordinated manner on a global level. However, those who disagree with this approach also have strong arguments. “Compulsory licensing is a useful mechanism to improve access to Covid-19 health technologies. However, it should not become a standard country strategy as it can create negative incentives for private investment in research and development,” Mossialos said.

In his view, the Covid-19 crisis requires exceptional responses, but instead of using compulsory licenses that may not be sustainable to fuel long-term innovation, it is better to reward Covid-19 health technology developers with value-based IP rights Products.

“If companies like Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca can make all of the vaccines they need and meet the needs themselves, there is no problem. But if they can’t make the billions of vaccines they need on time, they can be paid extra.” Grant the IP rights and share vaccine production with other companies, “he said.

The European Union has agreed to pay 15.50 euros per dose for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. If an agreement on intellectual property rights were reached between the manufacturers and the EU, as described above, this price could increase.

The EU has signed vaccine purchase agreements with BioNTech-Pfizer (600 million doses), AstraZeneca (400 million doses) and Moderna (160 million doses), but supplies of these vaccines have been slow. And there are already reactions. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Denmark and Sweden wrote to the European Commission last Friday that representatives of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine cooperation on site had stated that deliveries would be “significantly reduced”. Countries did not disclose the degree of the cuts, but said some had been told that normal service would resume from February 8, while others had not been given an end date.

Last week, the European Union announced that supplies of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine would be reduced in the coming weeks, but that dose increases would be available in late February and March.

On this basis, the proposal to increase vaccine production through value-based purchases of intellectual property rights is gaining in importance. “These could be used to facilitate the large-scale manufacture and effective and equitable distribution of these products,” Mossialos said.

“The mandatory licensing approach requires countries to have the legal and regulatory capacity to issue them. While there is a moral imperative to make Covid-19 technologies widely available, any approach to achieving that goal should too Take into account the long-term sustainability of innovation and equity in health systems, “he added.

– Posted by Nasos Koukakis, specially for CNBC.com

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