For some experts, the release of patents for drugs against Covid-19 would be like submitting a prescription without the instructions and without the supplies needed to make the vaccines. Furthermore, they claim that without access to all technical know-how and parts, an exemption could lead to quality, safety and efficacy issues, and even counterfeits.
Releasing patents for Covid-19 vaccines has been a controversial proposal made by several nations and supported a few days ago by the President of the United States, Joe Biden. Immediately, the pharmaceutical companies showed their disapproval: on the one hand, they would lose large sums of money if the patents are released. On the other hand, they also argue scientific and health reasons.
It is key to remember that a patent is a legal protection that prevents a product from being copied. The patent allows the manufacturer to have the right to his discovery and allows him to make money from it.
For pharmaceutical companies, this is an incentive that encourages innovation and lifting patents would have complex consequences. However, the World Health Organization assures that it is the most direct way to allow vaccines to reach countries with fewer resources.
“The vaccine equity vote is important and we appreciate it, but concrete steps must be taken and intellectual property renounced to increase production, vaccine coverage and get rid of this virus as soon as possible,” said the director. of the organism, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Since the end of 2020, countries like India and South Africa had asked to lift patents, which would allow a vaccine formulation to be available for manufacturers to produce locally. However, the laboratories explain that there are vaccines against Covid-19 that have a particular technology, that of messenger RNA, which is relatively recent.
“Protein-type vaccine technology, which has been in use for quite some time, could be manufactured locally in a multiplicity of different countries, whereas these more technical vaccines, viral vector vaccines and messenger RNA vaccines, are really new and the number of plants capable of making them is quite low ”, defends Penelope Ward, professor of pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London.
For some experts, patenting would be like submitting a prescription without the instructions and without the supplies needed to make vaccines. Furthermore, they claim that without access to all technical know-how and parts, an exemption could lead to quality, safety and efficacy issues, and even counterfeits.
Thomas Cueni, general director of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, stressed that “the renunciation of patents is the simple but incorrect answer to a complex problem. What we need is to tackle the real problem, like asking the rich countries to share the doses in the next few days or weeks, not in four or five months, after having vaccinated everyone in our countries. ”
Similarly, he added that “we must analyze the trade barriers that hinder the increase in supply and we need to improve efficiency because there are shortages and bottlenecks in supply chains.”