[Editorial Analysis] With vaccine trials on overdrive, India has rightly taken the lead in invoking TRIPS flexibilities

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: TRIPS flexibilities
Mains level: Effects of Liberalization on The Economy, Changes in Industrial Policy and their effects on Industrial Growth, Intellectual Property Rights

Context:

• Encouraging results from clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccines have raised hopes for an end to the pandemic crisis.

• However, they have also raised concerns about equitable access, amidst concerns over price gouging.

Phase III of clinical trial process:

• As many as six vaccines have entered phase III of clinical trials for efficacy and safety of the candidates.

• But already, the propensity to be first in the queue and undermine global cooperation in combating the disease is becoming evident in the US Government’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine programme; under this, vaccines are to be speed-developed and procured en
masse for American use.

• The US Health and Human Secretary Alex Azar announced a $1.95 billion deal to buy 100 million doses of a vaccine developed by Pfizer which began a late-stage trial involving 30,000 volunteers this week.

• Another frontrunner for vaccine development, Moderna Inc, as also Johnson & Johnson have cut similar deals to mass-produce the vaccine even before the completion of clinical trials.

• Charting a similar course, Britain announced this week that it had secured access to 90 million experimental vaccines. Corporations, while investing in R&D, have justifiably been assured of a return on their investment.

Putting into effect the flexibilities:

• However, the issue here is of putting into effect the flexibilities in TRIPS agreed upon in the 2001 Doha Declaration of the WTO, so that patents do not run against the interests of public health and access in times of a pandemic.

• At a virtual general council meeting of the WTO early June, India reiterated its commitment to this principle.

• The resolution adopted by member states on May 18-19 in the 73rd World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of WHO, is a critical instrument.

• India has joined other countries in pushing a resolution that calls for “equitable access to and fair distribution of all essential health technologies and products to combat the virus”.

Way ahead:

• India’s indigenous vaccine manufacturers can utilise flexibilities built into TRIPS to facilitate access with the same sterling effect that they did for Hepatitis B vaccine.

• The role of Indian generic manufacturers in supplying anti-retroviral medicines to other developing countries has been exemplary.

• India has simultaneously shown the capacity to achieve self- reliance in the area of diagnostics for Covid-19.

• Its drug manufacturers have already geared up to produce and distribute the antiviral remdesivir under a licence, although the price is arguably steep.

Conclusion:

• The time is ripe for leveraging global platforms and legal mechanisms to pre-empt monopoly pricing.

• Apart from invoking TRIPS flexibilities under Article 31, the government should create a consensus under WHO to reduce licensing costs, so that manufacture and mass procurement can proceed smoothly.

———————————————

Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to new FDI rules, consider the following statements:

1. Prior government approval is not mandatory for foreign direct investments (FDI) from countries which share a land border with India.

2. Investors from countries that are not covered by revised FDI new policy only have to inform the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) after the completion of a transaction rather than seek prior clearance from the administrative ministry.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: B

Mains Questions:

Q.1) What are the trips flexibilities? What do you mean by Trips plus? What is data exclusivity? How Covid-19 could impact the intellectual property rights

Subscribe to Get Weekly updates

Get daily current affair video, detailed current affairs PPT for quick revision and Free One Liner PDF directly in your inbox. Subscribe now to get this month's one liner for FREE.