Amgen Supports Industry Efforts to Address Global Access to COVID-19 Vaccines
COVID-19 caught the entire world off guard. Yet, within one year of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, four separate biopharma companies used the latest scientific advancements to produce effective vaccines to fight this terrible virus. Of course, developing the vaccines is just the first step.
Ensuring that people around the world have access to vaccines is critical in overcoming the current pandemic and protecting against future ones. Amgen CEO Bob Bradway recently joined hundreds of other industry leaders in support of a declaration authored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, one of our industry's leading trade organizations. (Click here for the declaration). The declaration recognizes industry’s responsibility to help expand access to COVID-19 treatments, affirms the critical role of intellectual property protection in encouraging biopharmaceutical innovation, and warns against ineffective and counterproductive measures such as the proposed waiver of patent rights for COVID vaccines.
Public-private collaboration—not IP waivers—are key to broad vaccine access
To address COVID vaccine access, a number of national governments, including the U.S., have supported plans to waive intellectual property rights under the World Trade Organization’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement. Under this proposal, the IP concerning the manufacture of these vaccines would be provided to all countries in the hopes of boosting vaccine supply.
Amgen recognizes the critical need to vaccinate as many people worldwide as quickly as possible. But IP is not a barrier to vaccine distribution.
Making vaccines widely available requires technological and manufacturing skill—and scale—not to mention the right supply of raw materials for these highly complex medicines. Waiving IP rights related to COVID-19 vaccines does nothing to address the technology, capacity and resource gaps, the global supply chain bottlenecks, and the other legislative and contractual constraints that impede broader vaccine supply. In addition, the current mRNA vaccines are incredibly difficult to make. Rushed production by inexperienced companies could easily injure patients as well as undercut overall confidence in vaccine technology. Notably, a number of developed countries in Europe and in Asia have expressly rejected the IP waiver idea specifically because of concerns that such a waiver would reduce the incentive to invent new medicines and reduce the world’s ability to respond to future pandemics as well as existing diseases. These governments have also noted that a waiver would not reduce the current supply chain bottlenecks in vaccine manufacturing.
What will work?
Governments and the biopharma industry are already working together to improve vaccine access by increasing exports from the United States and other countries with significant vaccine supply; optimizing production by supporting additional manufacturing partnerships; eliminating certain trade barriers; and supporting country vaccine distribution readiness.
Biopharmaceutical companies have worked to create tiered pricing agreements to address global need. They have also donated vast supplies of vaccine to individual countries and to COVAX, the worldwide initiative led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness, and WHO. BIO also proposed the establishment of a COVID Global Strategy for Harnessing Access Reaching Everyone (SHARE) Program.
IP is essential to drive advancements like those that delivered COVID vaccines
Strong IP protection is critical to every biopharmaceutical company’s ability to invest in, develop and bring to market breakthrough medicines to treat unmet medical needs. Proposals to weaken or “waive” IP protections for COVID-19 vaccines and therapies threaten to deter future investment and curtail biopharmaceutical innovation addressing medical need across a wide range of diseases. Amgen stands with BIO and other innovator companies in support of practical, collaborative solutions to immediately address supply shortage and ensure equitable vaccine distribution without compromising protections for intellectual property.
Visit phrma.org to read Five Steps to Urgently Advance COVID-19 Vaccine Equity
Click here to learn more about IP and how the patent process works.