In an overwhelming vote, the European Parliament late last week agreed to support a World Health Organization initiative to create a Technology Access Pool, which would collect patent rights, regulatory test data, and other information that could be shared for developing drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics to combat Covid-19.
The move adds pressure on the European Commission and member states to embrace the effort, which was launched in May in response to concerns that some Covid-19 medical products may not be accessible for poor populations, in any country. By establishing a voluntary mechanism under WHO auspices, the goal is to create a pathway to attract governments, industry, universities and nonprofit organizations.
So far, though, the pharmaceutical industry has eschewed the idea, prompting the parliament to adopt the resolution, which would permit the use of compulsory licenses. Under world trade rules, a country may grant a license to a public agency or a generic drug maker, allowing it to copy a patented medicine without the consent of the brand-name company that owns the patent.