New EU ruling could hit India and South Africa’s patent exemption plan

MUMBAI: The European Union has come up with a counter-proposal that could “undermine” India and South Africa’s proposed submission to the World Trade Organization to seek an intellectual property (IP) waiver on Covid-19 drugs and vaccines. This precedes the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting scheduled for June 8, amid glaring inequalities in access to Covid-19 vaccines, globally.
Opposition to the submission continues with the EU, Japan, UK and Switzerland blocking it, while essentially the US has supported the waiver.
If adopted at the WTO, the waiver would provide countries with essential policy space to overcome barriers to intellectual property in order to increase collaboration in research and development, manufacturing, scale-up and, therefore, to increase the supply of Covid-19 drugs and vaccines.
The EU proposal calls on governments to “facilitate the use of compulsory licenses under the existing WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The agreement already provides for this flexibility, which is a legitimate tool during the pandemic that can be used quickly when needed. ”
(Compulsory license – used in previous public health emergencies – when a government grants a license to a company without the consent of the patentee, to access therapy)
It also states that the use of export restrictions should be limited and that supply chains should be open. “Vaccine producing countries should be prepared to export a fair share of their domestic production. Supply chains are highly interconnected and should not be disrupted, ” the statement added.
The European Union’s counter-proposal to the TRIPS waiver is inadequate for its purpose and is nothing more than a maneuver to lobby for voluntary actions by pharmaceutical companies as a substitute for a concrete legal solution backed by more than 100 countries, according to public health experts.
“ The EU aims to disrupt negotiations with this ‘new’ proposal, which is nothing more than LCs as we know. We now have a good momentum with the United States, with 100 countries supporting it. India and South Africa have submitted a revised proposal, and (this) should be a good start to the negotiations, ” said Burcu Kiliç, research director at Public Citizen.
In addition, the international humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) denounced the EU and countries such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway for using delaying tactics, instead of agreeing to start negotiations. formalities on the critical derogation.
“ The proposal ignores the loopholes in existing regulations, including compulsory licensing, and the impact – decades of bilateral EU pressure have had on their implementation – in many countries around the world. Our analysis has shown that compulsory licenses alone would not be enough to gain urgent access to vital Covid-19 medical tools, even in the EU itself during this pandemic, ” an MSF official told YOU.
The EU proposal only applies to patent barriers and does not address intellectual property barriers in the regulatory system, which must be removed as countries and manufacturers seek to grow and supply vaccines, drugs and other Covid-19 health technologies. It appears to be focusing on vaccines and to some extent therapeutics, instead of covering all Covid-19 medical technologies, experts added.

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