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17 May 2021Big PharmaAlex Baldwin

AIPPI weighs in on COVID waiver

The International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI) has released a position paper on the proposed COVID-19 IP waiver, claiming that it will have a negative impact on the existing frameworks for promoting international cooperation and access to vaccines.

The waiver seeks to temporarily waive certain provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), in order to provide more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

AIPPI says the issue is of “paramount relevance” to its members and highlights the importance of the “minimum standards for IP protection” the TRIPS Agreement offers, doubting whether waiving rights would increase accessibility of COVID-19 medicines.

“We assert that intellectual property rights should not be viewed a priori by any World Trade Organization (WTO) member as a barrier to the development, manufacturing, distribution and provision of supplies and services of any kind,” the paper says.

Thepaper calls upon upcoming WTO TRIPS Council meetings to tackle issues presented by the pandemic with a solution that “balances the right of all to have access to health services” whilst “safeguarding” the current IP system.

Commenting on the paper, Catherine Mateu, chairperson of the AIPPI TRIPS committee, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic underscores our need for a reliable framework supported by all stakeholders, which encourages an urgent response to critical health challenges enabled by the recognition of game-changing innovations.”

The paper also urges “WTO members to recognize how intellectual property rights have contributed to the advancement of science and to innovations in medicine and public health.”

Out of the AIPPI Pharma Committee’s 52 members, 44 voted in favour of the paper's position, with no members voting against the sentiment.

TRIPS Waiver

This paper follows an announcement from US trade representative Katherine Tai that detailed the Biden administration's plans to back the WTO waiver on Wednesday April 5.

“The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” the announcement said.

The news was met with concern from the pharmaceutical industry, with US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra reassuring drugmakers that negotiations were ongoing and that their opposing views on the waiver were heard.

“We need a robust IP system to ensure that there is adequate incentive for research and development to address the next pandemic,” said Charles Boulakia, Vice Chairperson of the AIPPI Pharma Committee.

“AIPPI is not aware of evidence that intellectual property rights constitute a barrier for accessibility of COVID-19 related medicines and technologies. In the opinion of AIPPI, waiving TRIPS provisions would negatively impact the framework established to reach the objectives mentioned above on both a medium and a long-term basis. AIPPI also urges WTO members to recognize how intellectual property rights have contributed to the advancement of science and to innovations in medicine and public health. The recently developed COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics were discovered based on years of research supported by intellectual property rights”.

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