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5 reasons a new proposal by India and South Africa could be a gamechanger in the COVID-19 response

Chris Allan

5 reasons a new proposal by India and South Africa could be a gamechanger in the COVID-19 response.

And why ALL governments should support it.

On October 2, 2020, India and South Africa submitted a landmark proposal to the World Trade Organization.

The ground-breaking move proposes to ease rules that impose intellectual property (IP) barriers that restrict access to COVID-19 medicines, tools, equipment and vaccines.  

This could be huge. If the proposal is approved, it will be a real game-changer in the COVID-19 response. Here are 5 reasons why governments around the world should get on board.

1) IT INCLUDES EVERYONE

The proposal put forward by India and South Africa suggests that the waiver on IP stands until most of the world has reached immunity, and it includes developing and developed countries. 

By removing intellectual property on COVID-19 medical tools, we take back control from pharmaceutical corporations. We can avoid repeating the tragedy of the HIV/ AIDS epidemic, when monopolies on lifesaving treatments saw people in high-income countries gain access to lifesaving ARVs (antiretrovirals) while millions in developing countries were left to die, despite the existence of affordable HIV drugs

2) IT GOES WAY BEYOND PATENTS ON DRUGS

Did you know? Intellectual property also includes trade secrets, industrial designs and copyright protections. During the COVID-19 pandemic, treatment providers and governments have had to grapple with intellectual property barriers to essential equipment like masks, ventilator valves, crucial components of testing kits and other vital equipment that we’ve seen huge shortages of during peaks of the pandemic.  

3) IT WILL SPEED UP THE COVID-19 RESPONSE

Overriding monopolies on COVID-19 drugs, vaccines, tools and equipment will allow uninterrupted global collaboration to scale-up manufacturing and supply. Current intellectual property barriers limit where these lifesaving medical tools can be sold and who can manufacture them, and most often keep prices sky high.

The greater the diversity of manufacturers and suppliers, the sooner governments and treatment providers around the world will be able to access and utilize COVID-19 medicines and medical tools to save more lives.

4) IT WILL MAKE COVID-19 MEDICINES, VACCINES AND MEDICAL TOOLS MORE AFFORDABLE

Breaking pharmaceutical monopolies on COVID-19 medicines, vaccines and medical tools will allow more affordable versions to come onto the market sooner. Monopolies allow pharma corporations to keep prices artificially high, to the exclusion of much of the world’s population.

Any medicine, vaccine or medical tools for COVID-19 should be affordable for anyone who needs it.

5) IT PUTS GOVERNMENTS BACK IN THE DRIVING SEAT

Relying on the voluntary actions of pharma corporations who hold exclusive rights is not the solution in a global pandemic.

Gilead, the patent holder on remdesivir, the only drug so far approved specifically to treat COVID-19, have priced it at US$2,340 for a five-day treatment course in most countries.

This despite receiving more than $70 million in public funding to develop it and research that has shown it can be manufactured for as little as US$9 per treatment course.

Governments have a chance to back this proposal and put public health and people’s lives over the business interests of pharmaceutical corporations.

Remember- we’re all in this together.

The fastest (and fairest) way to end this pandemic is if everyone can access the medical tools they need, as quickly as possible. Nobody can afford to let corporations monopolise lifesaving medical products to pursue their bottom-line without regard to global COVID-19 needs.

The TRIPS Council of the World Trade Organisation will discuss the proposal on October 15th 2020. MSF is urging all governments to support this lifesaving move by India and South Africa to make sure human lives are prioritised.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over until it’s over for everyone.





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