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IP waiver on Covid products: Stop filibustering, MSF tells opposing countries

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on July 26, 2021

Says EU, Norway, the UK, and Switzerland should stop stalling the landmark proposal

It’s been nearly 10 months since the proposal for a waiver on the intellectual property of Covid-19 products was mooted by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organisation.

The pandemic has worsened and increasingly hit many countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, besides killing over four million globally, said Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), urging a bunch of European countries to stop stalling the landmark proposal. The call from the international humanitarian organisation comes ahead of the WTO’s General Council meeting tomorrow.

The European Union (EU), Norway, the UK, and Switzerland should stop stalling the landmark proposal to waive intellectual property (IP) on life-saving Covid-19 medical tools at the WTO, and join forces with more than 100 countries supporting it by openly engaging in formal negotiations to expedite the consensus, said the MSF.

“As many countries in Africa right now are reporting a high number of deaths due to the spread of new and existing variants of Covid-19, these governments are in dire need of vaccines, diagnostics, oxygen and other treatments to help save lives of critically ill patients,” said Dr Tom Ellman, MSF Director, Southern Africa Medical Unit.

“While the WHOrecommends two newer therapeutics for patients with severe Covid-19, medical practitioners and their patients in many low- and middle-income countries cannot access them due to monopolies, limited supply and high prices. It is outrageous to see countries blocking the TRIPS waiver that is desperately needed as an important tool to remove legal barriers and allow production to be scaled up by multiple manufacturers for critical Covid drugs, diagnostics and vaccines,” he said.

The WHO recently recommended two newer therapeutics – tocilizumab and sarilumab – for the treatment of critically and severely ill Covid patients. “However, access to these drugs remains limited due to patent monopolies, limited supply and high prices,” MSF pointed out.

“At a moment when we are in race against time to save lives and control the spread of unchecked transmission and development of new dangerous variants, pharmaceutical corporation’s business-as-usual approach is intolerable. With potentially promising treatments in the pipeline, opposing countries must stop filibustering the waiver proposal and support it to cover not just vaccines, but also treatments, diagnostics and other health technologies,” said Ellman.

Originally proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020, the waiver proposal is now officially backed by 63 co-sponsoring governments, with around 100 countries supporting the proposal overall. It has gained worldwide support from hundreds of civil society organisations, academics, scientists, medical associations, trade unions and United Nations agencies, including the WHO and UNAIDS. Recently, more than 100 IP lawyers and academics published a letter in support of the TRIPS waiver.

Published on July 26, 2021

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