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What would be the impact of a TRIPS waiver extension? (Guest blog)

Although the world was ill-prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry led the way from the start in developing new vaccines and treatments. What made this possible? A critical component was the deep scientific knowledge gained from decades of experience with similar viruses. The investments that underpinned this research base were enabled by the existing Intellectual Property (IP) framework, the same framework that has in turn allowed companies large and small to work jointly on efforts to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 therapeutics.
 
What is impressive is the real, tangible impact of existing measures to share IP. These have included voluntary licenses through the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), which has concluded agreements that cover three COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments and twelve COVID-19 technologies. Voluntary licenses involve much more than simply licensing IP: companies work hand in hand sharing technology and know-how, building internal capacity, and jointly solving problems as they emerge. Through these partnerships, production capacity for COVID-19 treatments far exceeds contracted demand for all variants, disease severity levels and in all patient settings.
 
Waiving IP at this stage would not only attempt to solve a problem that does not exist. It would send a clear message to companies investing in the development of COVID-19 therapeutics that they should expect their IP to be taken away if their research is successful. Even with 36 COVID-19 therapeutics approved worldwide the fact remains that there is much we still don’t know about COVID-19, and we still lack good treatment options for some settings, such as long COVID. This calls for continued research in spite of the breakthroughs we’ve witnessed so far.
 
Industry joined leaders of the G7 to support the 100-day mission[1], to develop and deploy high-quality diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines in just 100 days after a new pandemic threat is identified. To deliver against this ambitious objective, we cannot afford weakening the incentives needed for continued research.
  
Want to find out more? In a brand new EFPIA podcast series, Merck’s Healthcare CEO, Peter Guenter, elaborates on what’s at stake as WTO members discuss expanding the June waiver on vaccines to therapeutics and diagnostics.

Hugh Pullen

Hugh Pullen is Vice President Global Policy and External Affairs at Healthcare Business of Merck.
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