covid: WHO backs India & South Africa's IPR waiver proposal to WTO for Covid treatment

covid: WHO backs India & South Africa’s IPR waiver proposal to WTO for Covid treatment

The World Health Organization (WHO) has supported India and South Africa’s proposal to the World Trade Organization to relax intellectual property agreements that might pose a challenge to gain access to Covid-19 vaccines.

“WHO welcomes South Africa’s and India’s recent proposal to WTO to ease international and intellectual property agreements on COVID-19 vaccines, treatments & tests in order to make the tools available to all who need them at an affordable cost,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom said in a tweet.

The move gains significance as global drug makers involved in the development of Covid therapeutics have refused to give up patents over their products.

Organizations such as Geneva based Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) that funds research for neglected diseases, UnitAid that invests in innovative technologies for the prevention and treatment of HIV, Malaria and Hepatitis C, Doctors without Borders or MSF among others have also urged other countries to back this waiver proposal to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines, diagnostics and drugs are made available to everyone who needs them.

Article IX 3 and 4 of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO agreement has an option where countries under exceptional circumstances can seek a waiver from certain obligations under WTO treaties, such as TRIPS, proposal by India and South Africa says that waiver should remain valid until the majority of the world’s population has access to effective vaccines and has developed immunity to COVID-19.

The waiver is expected to last for two years. Under the current provision of TRIPS countries do have an option to invoke Compulsory License for a particular drug or vaccine to expand its access.

The Indian domestic pharma industry too has backed its government’s move where some of the largest domestic pharma lobby groups have endorsed the waiver. “This is the time for solidarity and global cooperation,” Sudarshan Jain, secretary general of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, has earlier told ET.

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