The Covid-19 technology access pool (C-Tap) was launched in May last year by the WHO to facilitate the sharing of patent-protected information to fight the virus, including diagnostics, therapeutics and trial data. The “pooling” of treatments and data would allow qualified manufacturers from around the world to produce critical equipment, drugs or vaccines without fear of prosecution for breaching patents. The goal would be to lower production costs, ease global shortages of key drugs and technology and, advocates say, ultimately end the pandemic sooner.
It has attracted zero contributions in the eight months since it was established. We repeat, no technology or treatments have been shared. This reflects the false messages put out by the drug-companies that they are co-operating to develop treatments for the pandemic which will benefit the more vulnerable nations.
Another United Nations-backed patent-sharing platform, the medicines patent pool (MPP), widened its mandate last year to include Covid-19 treatments, but it too has so far not negotiated any deals for drugs, data or technology to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Charles Gore, the executive director of the MPP, said the lack of engagement was symbolic of a widespread failure to tackle the pandemic in a global way. “Unfortunately what we’ve seen is too little of, ‘Let’s do this all together as a world’, and a little too much of me-first,” Gore said. He explained the pharmaceutical industry was following the lead of governments, who have sought to strike their own deals for vaccines, technology and treatments rather than prioritise global distribution. Gore said sharing technology or treatments could cost companies profits.
Others said the piecemeal approach to global access had contributed to shortages of lifesaving technology and treatments, scarcities that would also mark the rollout of vaccines until at least 2023, according to one analysis.
Ellen ‘t Hoen, a medical IP expert and campaigner, said wealthy governments around the world had poured billions of taxpayer dollars into developing vaccines that would be ultimately owned and controlled by companies and their shareholders.