6th May 2021
Biopharmaceutical industry urges Government to oppose ‘ineffectual’ IP waiver proposal
Waiving IP rights would not boost global production for COVID-19 vaccines, says IPHA
Ireland’s international originator biopharmaceutical industry has urged the Government to oppose a decision by the US administration to support a proposal to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines.
The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), the industry’s representative organisation, said the move would not boost production capacity for COVID-19 vaccines. Instead, it sets back the medicines innovation agenda.
“It is a short-sighted and ineffectual decision that puts at risk the hard-won progress in fighting COVID-19. We are urging the Government to oppose the waiver and to continue to back intellectual property as the formula for the invention of new vaccines, medicines and technologies,” said Oliver O’Connor, IPHA’s Chief Executive.
The industry fully supports the shared goal of protecting global citizens through vaccines.
“This is an industry that has brought forward, in record time, the only viable solution to the global pandemic – new vaccines. These are based on intellectual property-protected research and development, on years of investment and on expertise in companies that have the capability to manufacture vaccines safely and at scale. Collaboration with governments and academic partners has been key, too. The companies that brought forward vaccines, and all involved now in production, are certainly not imposing barriers to worldwide supply. Rather, they are gearing up with competent partners in voluntary agreements to deliver what the world needs in record speed, ” said Mr O’Connor.
Waiving patents will make winning the fight against COVID-19 even harder. The European Parliament voted against the waiver on the 29th of April, 2021, and the European Commission has remained consistent in its support for innovation as key to fighting the pandemic.
Increasing capacity to deliver doses to citizens around the world requires the skills and technical knowhow of vaccine developers to bring onboard partner manufacturing organisations.
“That kind of capacity expansion is not enabled by waiving patents and hoping that factories around the world can turn their hand to the complex process of vaccine manufacture. A waiver risks diverting raw materials and supplies away from well-established, effective supply chains to less efficient manufacturing sites where productivity and quality may be an issue.
“It risks the entry of counterfeit vaccines in the supply chain around the world. Capacity expansion is only achievable through voluntary, collaborative links between vaccines innovators and expert manufacturing partners. These partnerships are happening across the world and vaccines-makers are investing in upgrading their own sites, too. The focus should be on removing barriers to collaboration, ensuring the free flow of materials around the world and continuing the research effort,” said Mr O’Connor.
IPHA urged the Government to use its voice, in Europe and globally, to oppose the waiver and to continue to support intellectual property. A research-based response, with Europe at its heart, has given us the tools to fight the virus. That response has been built on an intellectual property framework that incentivises innovators to explore new technologies.
If approved by the WTO, the waiver would remove incentives for innovators to continue research for new variants. It undermines efforts to discover new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to tackle COVID-19. It would fail to boost global capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. It would negate any innovation-based response to future pandemics.