COVID-19 Diagnostics and Therapeutics: Supply, Demand, and TRIPS Agreement Flexibilities

This brief discusses the important role of diagnostics and therapeutics in dealing with COVID-19 which in the near future will remain unpredictable and a threat to public health. It highlights global health experts persistently pointing to the inability of developing countries to effectively respond to COVID-19 due to lack of timely access to affordable diagnostics and therapeutics as the patent holding pharmaceutical industry prioritize higher-priced sales to developed countries. It stresses that high prices and lack of readily available affordable generic supply has artificially suppressed demand for COVID diagnostics and therapeutics. The brief elaborates on the effect of patents on access and the critical role of compulsory license and the TRIPS Decision in facilitating affordable access, and the challenges and opportunities in use of that very essential flexibility. 

The brief unpacks and analyses arguments of opponents against extending the TRIPS Decision to diagnostics and therapeutics, showing how they are based on spurious and unfounded claims. The brief further examines voluntary licenses, tier-pricing, access initiatives of international organizations and donations, and finds them to be flawed and insufficient for addressing the inequities in access faced by developing countries during COVID health emergency.

We strongly support the immediate and unconditional extension of the 17th June 2022 World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement to COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics. In this regard, the U.S. government should without any delay support adoption of the ‘Decision text on extension of the 17 June 2022 Ministerial Decision to COVID-19 Therapeutics and Diagnostics’ (WT/GC/W/860; IP/C/W/6941) presented in the WTO by a group of developing countries in 2022. 

For U.S. International Trade Commission Investigation No. 332-596, “COVID-19 Diagnostics and Therapeutics: Supply, Demand, and TRIPS Agreement Flexibilities”, Prehearing Brief by Third World Network. This Brief is also made on behalf of the following organizations: Third World Network Berhad, Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia Campaign for Access to Medicines and Diagnostics India, TWN Trust India and Social Watch.

Download the briefing here.