Following the harmful decision to waive intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines, some governments are pushing to expand the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP Rights (TRIPS) waiver to diagnostics and therapeutics. This alarming development only serves to further harm vital progress and innovation, without increasing global access to COVID-19 vaccines or therapeutics. Further expansion of the TRIPS waiver will have lasting consequences for U.S. competitiveness, America’s economic security and global biomedical innovation. Instead of continuing down this harmful path, global leaders must focus on addressing real challenges and solutions that can best address prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and prepare for future global health challenges.
Innovators developing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments have been crucial to the global safety and response strategy. Expanding the TRIPS waiver would harm global interests by:
- Undercutting innovation and jeopardizing the ability to respond to future pandemics. The waiver discourages the investment necessary to develop new technologies to combat not only COVID-19 but other diseases. In fact, more than half of the treatments in development for COVID-19 are also being developed for other conditions, including treatments for cancer, autoimmune disorders and heart disease.
- Allowing innovators’ IP to be unfairly obtained, which would undermine the vital global collaboration brought about in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Hurting global health, since companies and countries using a TRIPS waiver will not be required to work with the innovator, who has the most data and knowledge about the safety of the product.
This waiver does not address actual issues preventing access to COVID-19 vaccines or therapeutics. In order to combat COVID-19 now and prepare for the future, we must:
- Address infrastructure and health system challenges that prevent medicine distribution and administration.
- Strengthen global medical supply chains so that we are equipped with all tools necessary to prevent disease spread and treat infection.
- Invest in health education, both for providers and patients, to combat misinformation and fear.
- Foster collaboration through mechanisms such as voluntary licensing and technology transfers to accelerate innovation.
- Remove trade and regulatory barriers, such as tariffs, to improve global access to necessary vaccines and treatments.
Undermining the biopharmaceutical industry’s collective work to combat COVID-19 by weakening the IP systems that promote investments in innovation, partnerships and competition won’t improve health outcomes related to COVID-19 or help prepare us for the next pandemic. Leaders should reject any expansion of the TRIPS waiver and focus on last-mile distribution and administration challenges around the world to make a real impact.
“Undermining our collective work to combat COVID-19 by weakening the IP system that promotes innovation, partnership and competition won’t improve global health or help prepare us for the next pandemic.”