HuffPost: Biden Administration Urges Global Trade Chief To Release COVID-19 Patent Waiver Text

April 21, 2022 Media

Nearly a year after President Joe Biden’s administration expressed support for waiving international intellectual property rules for COVID-19 vaccines, U.S. officials are nudging the World Trade Organization and its member nations to release the draft text of such a waiver.

The U.S. Trade Representative, in a diplomatically worded statement provided to HuffPost, aims to move along a process that has stalled. The Biden administration wants WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to release an official draft of a waiver agreement so the administration can seek input on it from members of Congress and take other steps needed before it can be adopted, according to two administration officials.

The leaked language would fail to enable mass reproduction of the brand-name COVID-19 vaccines by generic drugmakers because, among other things, it does nothing to expand access to the “thickets” of additional intellectual property rights needed to make use of patents on individual drugs, according to Lori Wallach, director of the American Economic Liberties Project’s Rethink Trade program. It also would not apply to medications that treat COVID-19 infections, which have become viable in the months since the U.S. announced the waiver, Wallach noted.

“The leaked text represents the lowest common denominator of E.U. fealty to Big Pharma by not actually waiving intellectual property monopolies and the U.S. insistence that only vaccines be covered,” Wallach wrote in a lengthy response to the leak.

Wallach nonetheless held out hope that the draft text’s language could improve before the WTO votes whether to adopt it.

“This text is more than disappointing,” Wallach wrote. “But it also is not the final word.”