Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and Covid-19 Vaccines: Discussion

Mr. Dimitri Eynikel:

The monopoly rights the industry pursues globally affects the access to treatments today, as I have said before. I can give a concrete example. Pfizer has in fact lobbied on the Covid-19 Bill, as it has also been described in the media. It is applying for patents worldwide and has signed a voluntary agreement for generic production, which is good for certain countries. The supply at Pfizer itself has been bought up almost until the end of the year. Half of the world does not have access to the generic production. That means this other half of the world has almost no access to any supply at all. That is very problematic, obviously, for a disease that is so lethal at this stage and is still being widely transmitted.

I can give another example of a Roche drug that is given to severe Covid-19 patients. There is a severe lack of supply. Médecins Sans Frontières tried for several months to place an order with Roche and never succeeded so we did not get access to the treatments because of a lack of supply. Where it is available, it is over $700 per treatment in India, which is a huge amount for people there to pay. I could go on for a list of treatments and vaccines. That is one element. The case is there. It is definitely needed. We are 100% certain of that.

I disagree with the lack of incentives. There is no discussion about lack of incentives. There are more discussions about future incentives so I do not think there is any risk in that regard. Negotiations have also gone forward. Discussions are materialising within the WTO about a potential outcome. Unfortunately, the discussion that is on the table is a completely watered down version of the original TRIPS waiver that is very weak and not very effective and puts at risk some of the public health safeguards referred to by Professor McMahon. We are particularly concerned about it. We call for Ireland to support the original TRIPS waiver, in particular to ensure that the essential elements of it are maintained throughout the negotiations.