Chapter 4: Proactively ensuring access to essential medical solutions: Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic
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Over three years after the global outbreak of a coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the World Health Organization has finally declared that “COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency of international concern”. However, based on the recent past negotiations of the World Trade Organization leading up to the temporary waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights on COVID-19-related health innovations, the likelihood of achieving an effective and agreeable structure to remove IP barriers through negotiating a broader IP waiver or expansion of the compulsory licensing framework, or through concluding a meaningful pandemics preparedness treaty, is rather slim. A more pragmatic approach to ensure that outcomes of publicly funded efforts can ultimately reach the intended public is to incorporate legally supported access and production conditions into publicly funded initiatives designed to drive rapid development of innovative solutions and accelerate regulatory approval. Informed by policy objectives such as principles of “responsible research and innovation” and “global public good,” worldwide supplies to medical solutions that benefited from public funds and publicly funded initiatives cannot be frustrated. This chapter will examine how the issue of IP rights was dealt with in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, why the current solutions are still problematic, and conclude with legally supported recommendations that can be adopted in the future to mitigate against the access and availability problems society continues to face.

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