Top pharmaceutical executives pushed back yesterday against the World Health Organization’s plan for sharing patent rights and product data for COVID-19 countermeasures.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla called the voluntary pool “nonsense” and “outdated,” in a forum hosted by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA).
Officially launched today, the WHO’s voluntary patent pool responds to concerns that exclusive licensing for COVID-19 treatments could lead to unaffordable prices in lower-income nations (DID, April 17).
Bourla added that hundreds of biotech companies are investing billions of dollars to discover COVID-19 countermeasures and taking away that intellectual property is “dangerous.”
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot claimed he was unaware of the WHO initiative, and said he “will have to consider it,” but added that without intellectual property protection “there’s no incentive for anybody to innovate.”
Soriot said the right thing to do is to provide access to vaccines and treatments free of charge, as the industry is committed to doing during the pandemic.
GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley said intellectual property is not a significant barrier to accessing medicines. Alternative approaches to access, such as providing them through Gavi, the vaccine alliance founded by the Gates Foundation, can ensure access to vaccines while protecting intellectual property. — Jordan Williams