Amid the race to find a salve for Covid-19, the World Health Organization director-general has endorsed the idea of creating a voluntary pool to collect patent rights, regulatory test data, and other information that could be shared for developing drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics.

The concept was proposed two weeks ago by Costa Rican government officials amid mounting concerns that some Covid-19 medical products may not be accessible for poorer populations. By establishing a voluntary mechanism under the auspices of the WHO, the goal is to establish a pathway that will attract numerous governments, as well as industry, universities and nonprofit organizations.

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  • It seems to me that WHO has enough to do right now in pandemic response that creating another work stream diverts its limited resources. This is not to suggest that ways to centralize information about ongoing research are not worthy of consideration but based on my reading the proposal is about IP rights not genomics. I am assuming that some sort of virus sharing platform similar to the the flu platform, will be created once we know enough about Covid 19. But we don’t now. To me there is a need for more activism to support health system strengthening including good old fashioned public health measures but that is not what I am seeing nor have seen over the years I have observed this field. Too often attention is directed towards hot button issues that by themselves don’t address the underlying weaknesses in health systems. It’s too bad since old fashioned public health capacity is what is helping those countries with capacities slow the burn rate of covid 19. For those countries without public health capacity the WHO is uniquely qualified to step in and that is where its attention should be focused now and not diverted by ideas such as this one.

  • Michele, the WHO, UNITAID and the MPP are working together on the elements that deal with patents, know-how and rights in test data. TheWHO is working with other entities that are already pooling genomics data. It’s hardly diverting work if barriers related to rights in patents, data, know-how, can be globally shared. It’s doing something that obviously is in everyone’s interest.

  • Why would the WHO spend any of its limited resources on this idea when the Medicines Patent Pool(MPP), a specialized agency, has the expertise and mandate to create such a pool? And moreover, the MPP has already taken steps to address voluntary licensure of Covid-19 therapeutics. It makes no sense for the WHO to divert itself from its work in pandemic response because a couple of countries suggest this course of action. Within its existing work plan, GPW13, the Medicines Road Map, and various World Health Assembly resolutions, the Member States have directed the Secretariat on what actions it should undertake or support. This is not one of them. Given the likelihood that the annual Assembly and May Executive Board meeting will be postponed and Members will not have opportunity to discuss a divergence from the agreed upon plans, DG Tedros should hold the course and focus the considerable skills and expertise of the WHO on the immediate matter hand.

    • Michele, the WHO, UNITAID and the MPP are working together on the elements that deal with patents, know-how and rights in test data. TheWHO is working with other entities that are already pooling genomics data. It’s hardly diverting work if barriers related to rights in patents, data, know-how, can be globally shared. It’s doing something that obviously is in everyone’s interest.

  • Hi Ed,

    I am fine with compulsory license, but this WHO meddling and getting into the data sharing would IMO NEVER be endorsed by at the very minimum the current participants of the ICH initiative and also by the PhRMA:

    https://www.ich.org/page/members-observers

    Since its announcement of organizational changes in October 2015, ICH has grown as an organization and now includes 16 Members and 32 Observers.

    As you can see, it’s a pretty big list!

  • Proving once again how greedy and unscrupulous US pharmaceutical corporations really are.

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