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NAM Helps Strike Forced IP Transfer from WHO Draft

In a significant change that protects manufacturers’ intellectual property rights, an updated draft of the World Health Organization’s pandemic agreement no longer includes IP language that would have pressured or compelled manufacturers to turn their innovations over to foreign countries, including competitors such as China, POLITICO Pro (subscription) reports.

  • Convincing organizations such as the WHO to reject forced IP transfers has been a top priority for the NAM, and this week’s announcement represents significant progress for manufacturers.

What’s going on: “The latest text has scrapped a clause stating countries will ‘consider supporting’ time-bound suspensions of intellectual property rights during pandemics. Instead, each country will consider supporting ‘appropriate measures’ to scale up the manufacture of products that could help stymie a future pandemic.”

  • The draft is set to be put to WHO members next month for a vote at the 77th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Subject to applicable laws, under the draft agreement countries will also be required to “support … capacity-building for the transfer of technology and knowhow for pandemic-related health products on mutually agreed terms.”
  • The text indicates that the pathogen access and benefit sharing system—which would require nations to share pathogen information “with the WHO in exchange for access to the resulting health products developed to fight the new threat”—is still under negotiation. Thus far, countries have been unable to agree on the terms of that exchange.

Why it’s important: IP waivers would significantly harm manufacturers and their ability to compete globally.

  • The NAM led the charge with regard to the World Trade Organization earlier this year, when it warned policymakers in the U.S. and abroad about the problems inherent in expanding the WTO’s 2022 TRIPS waiver on IP rights to include COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics.
  • As a result of that advocacy, the waiver was ultimately kept out of the WTO’s final Ministerial Declaration last month.
  • In addition, in January, the NAM responded to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ request for comments regarding the WHO’s pandemic preparedness agreement. The NAM urged that any IP waiver be removed from the WHO text.

The funding issue: Another challenge the WHO text puts off is the financing of all the initiatives it lays out.

  • While it mentions establishing a “coordinating financial mechanism,” it does not detail how the mechanism would work.
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