Drugmakers condemn plan for COVID vaccine patent waiver

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(Reuters) – Global drugmakers condemned on Wednesday an initiative by four World Trade Organization members to introduce an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, saying it could undermine the industry’s ability to respond to health crises in future.

The United States, the European Union, India and South Africa reached consensus on Tuesday on key elements for a long-sought waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, according to a proposed text seen by Reuters.

“Biopharmaceutical companies reaffirm their position that weakening patents now when it is widely acknowledged that there are no longer supply constraints of COVID-19 vaccines, sends the wrong signal,” said Thomas Cueni, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).

Cueni said in the statement the proposals amounted to “political posturing that are at best a distraction, at worse creating uncertainty that can undermine innovation’s ability to respond to the current and future response to pandemics.”

He said the global pharmaceuticals industry was producing more than 1 billion vaccine doses a month, thanks to collaboration within the legal patent protection framework, and the focus should shift from production to distributing shots in poorer nations.

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