MSF in Agok, South Sudan. © Valérie Batselaere/MSF

Flash quote: MSF statement on reported close talks between Canada and pharmaceutical companies over TRIPS Waiver

Reporting by Politico today suggests that the Canadian Government appears sympathetic to pharmaceutical industry objections to the TRIPS Waiver – a measure proposed at at the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive certain intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has time and again witnessed how monopoly rights granted to pharmaceutical corporations have impeded access to lifesaving medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and other health technologies. These barriers continue to undermine healthcare providers’ abilities to respond to health challenges, such as HIV/AIDS, drug-resistant tuberculosis, hepatitis C — and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 100 countries have voiced support for the TRIPS Waiver. The waiver is not a complete solution to scaling-up and diversifying COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing to address the supply shortages, but it clears space and removes legal barriers to focus on the many other barriers.

Adam Houston, MSF’s Medical Policy and Advocacy Officer in Canada said the following of reports of close talks between Canadian Government and pharmaceutical companies over the TRIPS Waiver:

“Canada has been notable in its steadfast refusal to publicly adopt a stance on the TRIPS Waiver. Nonetheless, today’s reports of the government’s sympathetic stance towards the pharmaceutical industry comes as little surprise to many following this issue closely. For instance, in the wake of a US announcement of support for a limited waiver for vaccines, Canada put out a noncommittal response (May 7). On closer inspection, however, the influence of the pharmaceutical industry was obvious.

For instance, Canada states “We remain committed to finding solutions and reaching an agreement that accelerates global vaccine production and does not negatively impact public health”. The only sector that has consistently pushed the notion that the TRIPS Waiver might negatively impact public health is the pharmaceutical sector; indeed, Canada’s primary pharmaceutical lobby group made the same reference to an agreement that does not negatively impact public health in their own press release the day before. It is unfortunate Canada still does not have the courage of its convictions to publicly adopt and justify its own stance on the TRIPS Waiver over 18 months after it was proposed.