India, others Seek Covid Patent Waiver

         South Africa, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt and Tanzania referred to a document, and highlighted how limited voluntary licensing for therapeutics had taken place with the flexibility limited to Paxlovid and Molnupiravir.

A group of developing countries, including India, have argued at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that access to Covid related life-saving tools, including diagnostic tests, therapeutics and vaccines, remains concentrated in higher-income countries while many low and middle-income countries still lag behind, and called for easing of patent and intellectual property rules.

After agreeing to a much watered-down package for patent waiver, trade ministers had sought an extension of the package to diagnostics & therapeutics, with some members seeking to accelerate the process. The deadline to decide was fixed as December 17 but even the definition of therapeutics & diagnostics is yet to be firmed up. South Africa, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt and Tanzania referred to a document, and highlighted how limited voluntary licensing for therapeutics had taken place with the flexibility limited to Paxlovid and Molnupiravir.

On diagnostics, they highlighted production is concentrated in high-income countries and that overreliance on imports has resulted in scarcity and high prices, which is restricting access to developing and poorer countries. At the end of 2021, only 0. 4% of the 3 billion tests reported globally were in low-income countries and underlined the need for expansion of local production to more locations.