Intellectual property and pharmaceutical trade: the unresolved debate in Europe
The lack of intellectual property management plagues recent regulatory discussions.
If the European Union were a shameless, profit-driven corporate bloc, it might simply ignore embarrassing debates over how to share pharmaceutical technology with the rest of the world. But it doesn’t, so it’s not possible, especially as notable gaps in COVID vaccine coverage keep tensions high on intellectual property protection. Arguments rage, and not just between the EU and countries without adequate access to vaccines. Cracks are also noticeable within the EU.
The European Commission’s’ intellectual property action plan ‘for 2020 insists on’ strong, balanced and robust IPRs [intellectual property rights] protection at national, European and international levels. The European Parliament has just adopted a resolution supporting the Commission’s plan, noting with approval that intellectual property contributes to “the development of new drugs and that intellectual property incentives are important to ensure effective access to affordable drugs” .
At the same time, he acknowledged that the inefficiencies of the system âhamper innovators and producers at the expense of equitable patient access to treatmentâ. And in response to pressure from COVID, it recognizes the need for a “more equitable distribution of vaccines around the world”, not least because “the lack of access to affordable vaccines remains a major challenge in developing countries” . He even goes so far as to urge the EU to redouble its efforts to “improve global access to affordable medical products linked to COVID”. And it calls for exploring options for compulsory licensing of medicines, and for the European Commission to “follow through on its promise to engage in active and constructive textual negotiations” at the World Organization. trade to facilitate access to vaccines in the poorest countries.
But textual negotiations at the WTO are a failure for the Commission, which has categorically refused to engage in this way with the recommendations of a coalition of countries, mainly the poorest, for international patent rules to be adopted. suspended in order to increase vaccine supplies. . Discussions have been ongoing since 2020, but the Commission has deviated from the text on the table and instead submitted its own less demanding text, sparking dismay and accusations of obscurity from countries suffering from the vaccine shortage.
The bold rhetorical promises the EU has consistently touted on tackling COVID globally have made its position all the more difficult to defend. As early as April 2020, the EU pledged to spare no effort to help the world unite against COVID, in the words of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has since made a refrain of ‘Nobody ‘is safe as long as everyone is not safe. “And as late as October 2021, she still offered reassurance that Europe” stands ready to contribute and invest in disaster preparedness pandemics, at home and around the world “. But as is all too obvious, and as the figures from the World Health Organization attest, this goal is still far from being achieved. And as long as there are large populations across the world in search of immunization, the EU remains exposed to accusations of speaking big and acting small, uncomfortably perched between competing claims of humanitarian principles and imperatives. industrial.
One of the most recent exhibits of this very public debate is a paper commissioned by the European pharmaceutical industry from one of the pharmaceutical world’s leading consulting firms, IQVIA. Commenting on the EU’s growing practice of including new intellectual property provisions in free trade agreements it signs with countries around the world, the paper challenges the assumption that longer periods of time lengthy intellectual property protection drives up drug costs. âEU FTAs ââthat included the protection of pharmaceutical intellectual property have shown that the share of drugs in health spending tends to remain stable or decline after an FTA, and that drug prices rise more slowly than the level of inflation, âhe says. In addition, “a strong PI index correlates with increased clinical trial activity in a country, which can provide both clinical and economic benefits.” Strong intellectual property protection allows “a significant contribution to R&D and clinical research, with associated benefits for patients and health systems,” he concludes.
This is an approach that is reflected among the ambiguities of the European Parliament’s resolution on intellectual property, which âexplicitly defends the idea that the promotion of better management of intellectual property in the research and research community. innovation is necessary in order to materialize the excellent European research on innovation which is beneficial to its citizens and its businesses. The prospects for a swift resolution of the EU’s patent disputes do not appear any closer than they have ever been.
Reflector is a Pharmaceutical Executive correspondent in Brussels