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MSF Calls for No Patents on COVID-19 Drugs, Tests, or Vaccines

The international humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, announced on May 27th that they were calling for no patents or profiteering on all COVID-19 medical products.

The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) today called for no patents or profiteering on drugs, tests, or vaccines used for the COVID-19 pandemic, and for governments to prepare to suspend and override patents and take other measures, such as price controls, to ensure availability, reduce prices and save more lives.

Already, Canada, Chile, Ecuador and Germany have taken steps to make it easier to override patents by issuing ‘compulsory licenses’ for COVID-19 medicines, vaccines and other medical tools. Similarly, the government of Israel issued a compulsory license for patents on a medicine they were investigating for use for COVID-19.

Following intense criticism from civil society groups and MSF, pharmaceutical corporation Gilead just gave up a special designation from the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) that would have allowed for extended monopoly control over the 20-year patents it has filed for in more than 70 countries for its potential COVID-19 treatment candidate, remdesivir. Preliminary results of clinical trials using remdesivir to treat COVID-19 are expected in April. However, Gilead has yet to commit to not enforcing its patents globally. 

“Gilead has no business profiteering from this pandemic and must commit to not enforce or claim its patents and other exclusive rights,” said Dana Gill, US Policy Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign. “Otherwise, Gilead is setting itself up to charge whatever it wants for remdesivir during this global health crisis, and for years to come. This is even more outrageous when you consider the tremendous amount of taxpayer dollars and public resources that have already contributed to the research and development of remdesivir.”

MSF is deeply concerned about access to any forthcoming drugs, tests, and vaccines for COVID-19 in places where MSF works and in other countries affected by this pandemic, and is urging governments to prepare to suspend or override patents for COVID-19 medical tools by issuing compulsory licenses. Removing patents and other barriers is critical to help ensure that there are sufficient suppliers selling at prices everyone can afford.

“We know too well from our work around the world what it means to not be able to treat people in our care because a needed drug is just too expensive or simply not available,” said Dr Márcio da Fonseca, Infectious Disease Advisor at MSF’s Access Campaign. “In countries where pharmaceutical corporations enforce patents, we urge governments to set the wheels in motion to override these monopolies so they can ensure the supply of affordable drugs and save more lives.”

Médecins Sans Frontières Press Release

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