Cross Party Letter to Liz Truss and Alok Sharma: “It can’t be right that despite receiving more than US70.5 million in public funding to develop remdesivir, Gilead is selling the medicine at £1,802 (US$2,340) for a five-day treatment course in most countries.

Nov 25, 2020 | Uncategorized

In South Sudan, Eliza, 28, kisses her baby, Jal Puok, 1, who is suffering from severe acute malnutrition with complications, including tuberculosis. On Monday next I have a question to Ministers about the affordability of drugs and medicines

A Cross Party Letter has been sent by Parliamentarians to Liz Truss and Alok Sharma: “It can’t be right that despite receiving more than US70.5 million in public funding to develop remdesivir, Gilead is selling the medicine at £1,802 (US$2,340) for a five-day treatment course in most countries. This is the full text of the letter

Rt Hon. Elizabeth Truss MP Secretary of State for International Trade Department for International Trade

King Charles Street, Westminster London, SW1A 2AH

The Rt Hon. Alok Sharma MP

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

1 Victoria Street

London, SW1H 0ET

23 November 2020

Dear Liz and Alok,

As a cross party group of parliamentarians, we urge the UK Government to support the adoption of the decision text proposed by India and South Africa for “Waiver from certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19” (Waiver Proposal).

The aim of this Waiver is to prevent intellectual property (IP) barriers from restricting access to COVID-19 medicines, tools, devices and vaccines to ensure all health systems are equipped with the health technologies they need to end this pandemic.

We are deeply concerned by the lack of support for the Waiver in the UK representative’s statement at the recent TRIPS Council meeting on 15th October for the following reasons:

• During the COVID-19 crisis, treatment providers and governments have had to grapple with intellectual property barriers (patents, trade secrets, industrial designs and copyright protections) to essential products such as respirators, ventilator valves, therapeutics and reagents for test kits.

In addition, new promising monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 are being trialled but they are already under patent protection which would limit access in many low and middle income countries (LMICs). If effective, maximising supply and meeting global demand for these treatments will be challenging unless governments take action now to address these barriers.

There are numerous examples of when IP barriers have blocked access to life-saving vaccine products in the past, including for the pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines.

• These are not just issues for LMICs. Last month, there was a shortage of COVID-19 medicine, remdesivir, leading to rationing on the NHS. Remdesivir is under patent and owned by pharmaceutical company Gilead who have granted a voluntary license on the treatment which excludes nearly half of the world’s population, including the UK. Furthermore, despite receiving more than US70.5 million in public funding to develop remdesivir, Gilead is selling the medicine at £1,802 (US$2,340) for a five-day treatment course in most countries – even though it can be manufactured for as little as £6.93 (US$9) per treatment course.

It is against this backdrop that the Indian and South African Governments asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the 15th October 2020 to allow all countries to choose to neither grant nor enforce patents and other intellectual property (IP) related to COVID-19 drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and other technologies for the duration of the pandemic, until global herd immunity is achieved. Specifically the Waiver Proposal applies to Section 1 (copyrights and related rights), 4 (industrial design), 5 (patents) and 7 (protection of undisclosed information) of Part II of the TRIPS Agreement.

The proposed waiver would be applicable only to COVID-19. It does not suggest a waiver from all TRIPS obligations, nor does it suggest a waiver beyond what is needed for COVID-19 prevention, containment and treatment.

The historical and recent actions by pharmaceutical corporations shows that we cannot rely on their exclusive rights and limited voluntary actions to end this global pandemic.

And even though there are existing public health safeguards within the TRIPS Agreement (TRIPS flexibilities) there are often territorial and procedural restrictions that mean they can only be applied on a product-by-product basis or country-by-country basis, making this time consuming and difficult for countries to collaborate around research and manufacturing. Instead we need a more immediate global solution based on collaboration and solidarity with the overall aim of increasing manufacturing capacity to ensure sufficient supplies of vaccines, treatments and other health products to enable all countries to tackle COVID-19.

By removing IP barriers the Waiver proposal will help this to happen; not only will it speed up research and development and maximise manufacturing capacity it will also make products more affordable by enabling generic competition to help drive down prices.

Over recent months the UK has led calls for global collaboration and solidarity to end this pandemic and has supported calls for COVID-19 medical products to be treated as “global public goods”. We welcome the UK’s contribution of £500m to the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Advance Market Commitment (AMC), as well as an additional £71m for the COVAX Facility. However, the COVAX Facility can only be truly effective at managing global access to future vaccines if there are enough doses to go around and this is beyond the capacities of a handful of companies.

We are only at the beginning of tackling this pandemic and we need a longer-term solution that focuses on enabling a rapid scaling-up of production by multiple manufacturers across many countries to meet global demand.

Access can’t be an after-thought, we have learned from the AIDS crisis that allowing intellectual property rights to take precedence over human rights will have a catastrophic impact. We can’t allow the same mistakes to be made again. Not only will artificially restricting supply through IP monopolies lead to huge loss of life it will also exacerbate an already spiralling economic crises on a national and global scale.

We therefore strongly request that the UK Government support the proposed IP Waiver at the upcoming World Trade Organisation meetings to ensure all countries have access to the tools they need to protect their populations and end this pandemic for all.

Your Sincerely,

Layla Moran MP Tahir Ali MP

Paula Barker MP Apsana Begum MP Guy Black MP

Alan Brown MP

Dawn Butler MP

Ian Byrne MP

Dan Carden MP

Jeremy Corbyn MP Wendy Chamberlain MP Sarah Champion MP Patrick Grady MP Andrew Gwynne MP Neale Hanvey MP Rachel Hopkins MP Christine Jardine MP

Kim Johnson MP

Afzal Khan MP

Ian Lavery MP

Clive Lewis MP

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP Caroline Lucas MP Kenny MacAskill MP John McDonnell MP Navendu Mishra MP Grahame Morris MP Sarah Olney MP

Kate Osamor MP

Kate Osborne MP

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP Virendra Sharma MP Tommy Sheppard MP

Claudia Webbe MP Philippa Whitford MP Mick Whitley MP Nadia Whittome MP Beth Winter MP

Lord Alderdice

Lord Alton

Baroness Benjamin Baroness Bennett Baroness Bonham-Carter Baroness Brinton

Lord Browne

Lord Bruce

Lord Cashman

Lord Chidgey

Lord Clement-Jones

Baroness Cox

Lord Crisp

Baroness D’Souza Baroness Featherstone Lord Foster

Baroness Frances Lord Goddard Lord Greaves Baroness Grender Baroness Hamwee Lord Hannay

Lord Harries

Baroness Harris Baroness Humphreys Baroness Hussein-Ece

Baroness Jolly Baroness Jones Lord Jones

Lord Judd Baroness Kramer Baroness Masham Baroness Miller Baroness Northover Baroness Pinnock Baroness Prashar Lord Purvis

Lord Rennard Baroness Randerson Lord Razzall Baroness Scott

Lord Sharkey Baroness Sheehan Lord Shipley Baroness Smith Lord Stephen

Lord Storey Lord Stunell Baroness Thomas Baroness Thornhill Viscount Thurso Lord Tope Baroness Tyler Lord Tyler Baroness Walmsley Lord Wrigglesworth

Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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