US support for patent waiver is unlikely to cost Covid-19 vaccine makers in the short term – fr

US support for patent waiver is unlikely to cost Covid-19 vaccine makers in the short term – fr

The Biden administration’s unexpected support for the temporary waiver of the Covid-19 vaccine patents will not have an immediate financial impact on the companies doing the injections, industry officials and analysts have said.

Still, the move could mark a shift in Washington’s long-standing support for the industry’s valuable intellectual property, patent law experts have said. A waiver, if it goes into effect, may pose long-term risks to vaccine makers, analysts said.

Modern Inc.,

RNAm 1,74%

Pfizer Inc.

PFE 1,16%

and other vaccine makers were not relying on sales from developing countries that would have access to vaccine technology, analysts said. If the patents and other crucial information about the products behind the technology are made available, it would be at least several months before the photos were produced, industry officials said.

Still, long-term sales of Covid-19 could suffer if other companies and countries had access to the technologies and figured out how to use them. Western drugmakers may also face competition sooner for other drugs they hope to manufacture using these technologies.

A World Trade Organization waiver could also set a precedent for waiving patents for other drugs, a goal long sought by some developing countries, patient groups and others in trying to reduce drug costs. prescription drugs.

“This sets a tremendous precedent for waiving intellectual property rights that will likely occur in future pandemics or other serious illnesses,” said David Silverstein, patent attorney at Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider LLP, who advises manufacturers drugs. “Other than that, it’s largely symbolic.”

Countries like India and South Africa want to open up intellectual property to help boost the production of clichés for developing countries where cases have increased. Many of these countries have limited doses, while the United States and other developed countries have a much larger supply and have vaccinated more of their population.

The United States, which for years has defended pharmaceutical company patents, said Wednesday it supported a temporary waiver, surprising the pharmaceutical industry and other countries. Inventories of vaccine makers fell on the news, although they have since cut some of the losses.

The fate of the waiver, however, is unclear. It would need the unanimous support of the 164 member countries of the World Trade Organization. Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany was against granting a waiver.

Drugmakers and industry experts say lifting intellectual property won’t help procurement, as bottlenecks lie in limited raw materials and manufacturing capacity.

India has suspended vaccine distribution to other countries as the country grapples with the world’s fastest growing Covid-19 surge. Delayed distribution is hampering the global immunization effort. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

Companies have been ramping up vaccine production for months. It took a while, industry officials said, as the shots currently available rely on newer technologies such as messenger RNA. With the additional production, Pfizer had started shipping doses produced in the United States to countries like Mexico and Canada, while Moderna agreed to donate doses to the Covax initiative to deliver injections to poor countries.

The companies were also in talks with the Biden administration on how to supply more to developing countries, according to people familiar with the matter.

The industry has offered to provide more doses to developing countries at cost or not for profit, said Jeremy Levin, president of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a commercial group and CEO of Ovid Therapeutics Inc. “These proposals appear not to have even been examined, ”Dr. Levin said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The waiver of intellectual property protections will have little impact on companies and their forecast double-digit vaccine sales for 2021, analysts said. The companies had signed contracts to supply doses to various countries this year. Pfizer, which developed its vaccine with BioNTech SE,

BNTX 8,85%

reported sales of approximately $ 3.5 billion in the first quarter, while Moderna reported sales of $ 1.7 billion.

Pfizer said it is forecasting around $ 26 billion in Covid-19 vaccine sales this year, while Moderna is forecasting $ 19.2 billion based on purchase agreements.

Johnson & Johnson JNJ 0,54%

and AstraZeneca AZN 0,70%

PLC has said it will sell its vaccine at cost or not for profit during the pandemic, while Pfizer has said it will do so for poor countries. Moderna said she would price her vaccine in low-income countries at its lowest price.

A patent waiver could, however, have a long-term impact by accelerating the diffusion of vaccine technology to other countries.

Countries with proven biopharmaceutical industries like China, Russia, India and Japan may be able to grow and compete with drug makers for Covid-19 booster injections and vaccines against other illnesses sooner than they normally could, health experts said.

Without the cooperation of vaccine makers, countries or manufacturers would have to reverse engineer vaccines, a difficult and time-consuming process, said Matthew Johnson, senior director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute who previously worked for drug makers.

Depending on how a final waiver is defined, countries may still need to force companies to contribute their know-how to take the shots, patent law experts and industry officials have said.


In your opinion, what would be the impact of a patent waiver on the manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines? Join the conversation below.

So far, the United States has opposed sharing intellectual property, patent law experts have said. The support of the Biden administration may portend a new approach. Democrats, including some presidential candidates in the last election, have proposed invoking federal law to break patents on a drug when its price is too high, known as the “march for rights.” .

The administration’s decision could make developing countries feel more free to seek trade secrets. “You leave countries free to enact procedures or laws that will allow them to seize or steal trade secrets,” said James Pooley, former deputy director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Still, some industry officials and experts have said backing the Biden administration could be a one-off maneuver motivated by an unusual pandemic and designed to encourage companies to collaborate more with developing countries.

“This is a way of signaling that the US government is open to twinning, not only nationally, which is already being done, but also around the world,” said Arti Rai, faculty director at the Center for Innovation. Policy by Duke Law.

Write to Jared S. Hopkins à [email protected]

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