Pharmaceutical industry and governments against the pandemic
Rather than proposals to reinvent the patent system, governments should work together with the pharmaceutical industry to address the urgent challenges of the current pandemic, stated R. Craig Tucker, Eli Lilly and Company Patent Counsel, during the Webinar “COVID-19 and the impact on the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and patents”, held on May 26th by ABPI – Brazilian Intellectual Property Association. “We will focus on improvements to reduce system costs, which include optimizing regulatory approval, removing unnecessary barriers from the supply chain, rational allocation strategies; removal of taxes and tariffs, etc.”
In his presentation – which counted on the participation of ABPI’s president Luiz Edgard Montaury Pimenta and the coordinators of the Biotechnology Study Committee, Gabriela Salerno, Alex Gonçalves de Almeida, Ludmila Kawakami Ávila and Priscila Thereza de Barros – Craig emphasized that the Compulsory Licensing in cases of a public health emergency is already included in the legislation of the TRIPS member countries, the treaty that is part of the set of agreements signed in 1994 that ended the Uruguay Round and created the World Trade Organization, to which Brazil is a signatory. “ABPI is conducting many efforts in the Brazilian Congress to clarify that we have a position related to Compulsory Licensing, which does not require modification or new law for that matter”, added ABPI’s president.
According to Craig, strong intellectual property systems created and maintained a dynamic R&D ecosystem. As an example, he cited the “unprecedented” response from the patent system which, in only five months since the beginning of the pandemic, has produced hundreds of lines of research. “We have approximately 400 treatments and potential vaccines under development”, he added. Craig affirmed that this system allowed innovative pharmaceutical companies working with Academia, private research institutes and national research laboratories to produce collaborative methods based on “fairly negotiated licensing of IP rights”.
He also explained that voluntary patent pools are not the best way for compulsory licensing, which, on the contrary, must use existing mechanisms, connect with the industry and be able to adapt to specific challenges, pointing out that “there will be more pandemics and we will need to adapt”. For Lilly’s Counsel, the development of a patent licensing mechanism without consultation with manufacturers would not help achieve the goal of speedy delivery distribution of new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. “In licensing circumstances, patent holders will need to be involved to help transfer the complex scientific and manufacturing knowledge needed to step up mass production and also to support essential functions, such as early post-market surveillance”.