EU relaxes defense of pharmaceutical groups over Covid vaccine patents

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The EU has proposed that developing countries be allowed to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines, softening its defense of the intellectual property of pharmaceutical companies.

Valdis Dombrovskis, the trade commissioner, who had opposed a plan to reduce intellectual property protection, has now said he can support limited exemptions.

India and South Africa are pushing for removal of intellectual property controls, so that domestic producers can reproduce products like AstraZeneca and Pfizer without paying them royalties.

Dombrovskis proposed a targeted exemption on compulsory licenses, which would allow governments to force manufacturers to surrender their formulas to create cheaper forms of their drug.

He offered few details but added: “This solution could facilitate the production of vaccines and other essential health products, which are essential for regions like Africa, while preserving incentives for innovation and development. the investment.

“Patent protection is crucial in this regard, because they are essential for countries that want to attract investment and have technology transfers, in order to develop their own production capacity.

“We still hope to achieve consensus on this crucial issue in the days to come, and we will maintain a strong commitment to this end.”

Trade ministers will meet at the World Trade Organization in Geneva next week with vaccines high on the agenda.

While rich countries are delivering third booster shots, many developing countries are still not getting vaccinated.

The United States supports a complete waiver of intellectual property rights, but the EU says it would reduce the incentive for companies to spend billions on research for new drugs.

The EU move will raise hopes for a WTO deal next week, but India has so far rejected any compromise. Its joint proposal with Pretoria calls for any drug capable of treating Covid to be deprived of intellectual property protection for three years.

Dombrovskis said: “Intellectual property is only one piece in a big puzzle. Collaboration with industry and investment in production capacity play a much more important role.

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