As anticipated, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Executive Board recently met to tackle a number of key global health issues, including how to improve implementation of the WHO’s Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health and Intellectual Property (GSPOA). GSPOA helps guide policies to drive the discovery of new treatments and cures for diseases that have an outsized impact on patients in developing regions and recognizes the critical role of intellectual property in supporting that discovery.
“Intellectual property rights remain the cornerstone of the incentive system for medical innovation.” – United States at WHO Executive Board 146
While the Executive Board decided further discussions were needed before any decision-making on the GSPOA implementation plan, a number of encouraging statements in support of innovation and collaboration were worth noting:
- The United States clearly underscored the value of intellectual property noting, “Intellectual property rights remain the cornerstone of the incentive system for medical innovation, and we would like to strongly reemphasize our support for robust intellectual property protection around the world.”
- Japan went further to note the need for incentives in medical innovation saying, “Access to quality, safe and effective medicines and vaccines is one of the critical factors ensuring universal health coverage. It is necessary to actively provide companies and research institutions with incentives…in which new medical treatments need to be developed. We should come up with a method of promoting the cooperation with countries and stakeholders as well as the development of medical treatment.”
- Canada emphasized the need for collaboration around innovation stating, “We welcome the continued focus on the close collaboration between the WHO, World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization when engaging on issues related to public health, innovation and IP. Leveraging this collaboration and sharing expertise is important, including when supporting member states with advice on IP systems or trade-related policies. It ensures that WIPO and WTO’s relevant technical expertise informs the WHO’s work and avoids duplication.”
These themes are highly encouraging in support of innovators – and the people who benefit from their biopharmaceutical and medical innovation – worldwide. Continued discussions must not lose sight of the intellectual property ecosystem, which remains critical for progress in addressing global health issues.