Community groups slam delay on TRIPS waiver inclusion of Covid-19 treatments and tests

Media Release December 15, 2022: The same dynamics that slowed and watered down the decision on the initial TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO) now look likely to prevent a timely decision on expanding the waiver to cover treatments and tests. Calls for an extension to the original deadline of 17 December 2022 being led by the EU, Switzerland, Japan and the UK have been slammed by an alliance of health, human rights and fair-trade organisations.

Dr Patricia Ranald, Convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network said: “The World Trade organisation appears likely to miss the December deadline to waive some monopoly patent rules and ensure more equitable access to Covid-19 treatments and tests for millions of people in low-income countries. High income countries have shown more regard for the profits of pharmaceutical companies than for saving lives. The Australian government should support a decision on December 17 to expand the June WTO waiver to include Covid-19 treatments and tests.”

Ry Atkinson, Strategic Campaigner for Amnesty International Australia, said: “Throughout this pandemic, pharmaceutical companies have lobbied relentlessly to hold up the passage of an effective waiver while they’ve filled their pockets. Their strategy has always been to delay, 'compromise' on something they know to be unworkable and then point to its failure. But there’s a lack of courage at the WTO to stand up to them. We’re calling on the Australian Government to take a leadership role here and do exactly that. The December 17 extension to include treatments and tests is non-negotiable.”

Associate Professor Deborah Gleeson, Convener of the Political Economy of Health Special Interest Group of the Public Health Association of Australia, said: “Waiving intellectual property rules for Covid treatments and tests is vitally important to help low- and middle-income countries manage the pandemic, treat vulnerable people and reduce unnecessary illness and death. Extending the TRIPS waiver to cover these products can achieve more than the existing waiver for vaccines, as many of them are easier to reverse engineer, and are less reliant on the transfer of trade secrets, something the limited waiver doesn't support.”