The World Health Organization is pushing a proposal that aims to ensure broad access to COVID-19 treatments and vaccines while offering an appropriate reward to creators.
Under the plan, which was proposed by Costa Rica, pharmaceutical companies would be asked to voluntarily donate their COVID-related intellectual property to a common global pool. Countries then would be free to decide for themselves how to mete out the rights.
World leaders are struggling to balance the need to motivate drug discovery while making sure that the benefits aren’t available only to those who pay the most. Costa Rica’s proposal would allow some countries to restrict patent rights for vaccines and treatments while letting others open them up to the public domain to try to make them available for all citizens.
The virus “attacks people all around the world in the same way,” Carlos Alvarado Quesada, the president of Costa Rica, said at a WHO press briefing Friday. “It’s a call for solidarity.”
Under the plan, countries would retain the right to allow low-cost generics of patented medicines. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is urging countries and companies to support the proposal, which will be put up for discussion at the World Health Assembly summit on COVID-19 Monday and Tuesday.
The pandemic can be a disproportionate burden for developing countries, Sebastian Pinera, the president of Chile, said in the briefing.