Public Health

We Don’t Need to Lift Patents to Make Vaccines More Accessible

And weakening of IP rules would actively hurt the most vulnerable.

A full 14 months into the pandemic, nearly half of Americans who are eligible have received at least one vaccine dose. The end is in sight, and we have innovation to thank. And so, as our economy reopens and restrictions are being lifted, attention is turning to hard-hit nations like India and Brazil, currently experiencing skyrocketing case numbers. 

The question, then, is how to boost vaccinations abroad. The New York Times notes that India’s outbreak is causing the country to restrict export of its own vaccines, which could hurt Africa in particular, since those nations are relying on Indian vaccines. 

In the face of pressure to use every tool available to boost vaccinations abroad, the Biden administration announced last week that it supported a proposal to waive patent protections on the COVID vaccines. 

This measure, which is called a TRIPS Waiver (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and was put forth last fall at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa, would be far more than just a temporary fix for more shots.

If the waiver is triggered, it would ostensibly nullify IP protections on COVID vaccines, allowing countries and companies to copy the formulas developed by private vaccine firms in hopes of making their own, with no guarantee of success or safety.

The coalition backing Biden’s pledge includes Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and World Health Organization Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who first backed this effort in 2020 before any coronavirus vaccine was approved.

Intellectual property rights are protections that help foster innovation and provide legal certainty to innovators so that they can profit from and fund their efforts. A weakening of IP rules would actively hurt the most vulnerable—the same people that groups who support the IP waiver are nominally trying to help.

The power to issue the waiver comes from a section in the 1995 treaty that created the World Trade Organization, meant to protect intellectual property among global trade partners. While a COVID vaccine waiver would be the most substantial one to date, similar efforts have been attempted on both HIV/AIDS medicines and generic drugs, the latter the only other successful case.

The push for a waiver ignores that many companies have voluntarily pledged to sell their vaccines at cost or even offered to share information with other firms. Moderna, for its part, has stated it will not enforce the IP rights on its mRNA vaccine during the pandemic and will hand over any research to those who can scale up production. The developers of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have pledged to sell it at cost until the pandemic is over.

Further, this measure would have far-reaching implications. Supporters claim that because COVID represents such a global threat and because Western governments have poured billions in to securing and helping produce vaccines, low and middle-income countries should be relieved of the burden of purchasing them. But rich countries are already donating vaccines to the World Health Organizations COVAX program, which gifts countries vaccines free of charge.

There are a few reasons that a TRIPS waiver is unlikely to be the most efficient solution. The vaccines require specialized knowledge to develop and produce these vaccines, and the mRNA vaccines require cold storage. As economist Alex Tabarrok has pointed out, vaccine makers have been scouring the globe for adequate vaccine facilities but fallen short. 

It  seems implausible that any of this could be achieved outside the traditional procurement contracts we’ve seen in the European Union and the U.S. What is more likely is an increase of botched and unsafe vaccines that would be risky for vulnerable populations, as philanthropist Bill Gates has claimed in his opposition to the waiver.

If the cost of researching and producing a COVID vaccine is truly $1 billion as is claimed, with no guarantee of success, there are relatively few biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies that can stomach that cost. And distribution would be an entirely different story.

If Biden’s administration wants to help vulnerable nations, there is an easier way: release the tens of millions of doses of AstraZeneca vaccines sitting dormant in warehouses, which the FDA has not yet approved, and begin exporting our vaccine surplus to the most hard-hit countries. That’s precisely why the COVAX initiative was created, and why the U.S. should support it.

Meanwhile, let’s also look at the future implications of moving now to restrict IP protections for the very companies that have delivered the life-saving vaccines that will get us out of our current pandemic.

BioNTech, the German company headed by the husband-wife team of Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci that partnered with Pfizer for trials and distribution of their mRNA vaccine, was originally founded to use mRNA to cure cancer. Before the pandemic, they took on massive debt and scrambled to fund their research. Once the pandemic began, they pivoted their operations and produced one of the first mRNA COVID vaccines, which hundreds of millions of people have received.

With billions in sales to governments and millions in direct private investment, we can expect the now-flourishing BioNTech to be at the forefront of mRNA cancer research, which could give us a cure. The same is true of many orphan and rare diseases that do not otherwise receive major funding.

Would this have been possible without intellectual property protections?

If we want to be able to confront and end this pandemic, we will continue to need innovation from both the vaccine makers and producers who make this possible. Granting a one-time waiver will create a precedent of nullifying IP rights for a host of other medicines, which would greatly endanger future innovation and millions of potential patients.

Especially in the face of morphing COVID variants, we need all incentives on the table to protect us against the next phase of the virus. 

Rather than seeking to tear down those who have delivered the miracle of quick, cheap, and effective vaccines, we need to support their innovations and provide supplies to countries who need them. Symbolic gestures that will have drastic consequences, especially on the most vulnerable, just aren’t up to the task.

Originally published here.

Скасування патентів на КОВІД-вакцини вб’є інновацію у світі

Що потягне за собою скасування патентів на вакцини

Раніше цього тижня адміністрація президента Байдена підтримала призупення захисту прав інтелектуальної власності у Світовій Організації Торгівлі (СОТ). Таке рішення було прийнято з метою пришвидишити вироблення вакцин і відповідно вакцинацію населення світу, зокрема це стосується країн, що розвиваються. Наслідком підривання прав інтелектуальної власності стане різке зменшення інновації у світі, чорний ринок вакцин, і негативне бачення вакцинації як такої.

Передісторія

У жовтні 2020 року Індія та Південно-Африканська Республіка вперше висунули глобальну пропозицію про відмову від деяких положень Угоди про торгові аспекти прав інтелектуальної власності (TRIPS) Світової організації торгівлі (далі – СОТ), щоб дозволити будь-якому виробникам фармацевтичних препаратів виготовляти вакцини COVID та розповсюджувати їх. Крім патентів, йшлось про інші форми захисту прав інтелектуальної власності, щоб забезпечити виготовлення та розповсюдження необхідних медичних виробів, таких як маски, вентилятори, засоби індивідуального захисту.

З тих пір ця пропозиція отримала підтримку понад 100 країн, в тому числі Франції, Іспанії та, нещодавно, США.

Але Австралія, поряд із Великобританією, ЄС, Швейцарією, Японією, Бразилією та Норвегією, як і раніше утримуються від підтримки. Німеччина особливо наполеливо виступає проти підривання захисту патентів.

“Пропозиція США про скасування захисту патентів на вакцини від COVID-19 має серйозні наслідки для виробництва вакцин в цілому”, – сказала речниця уряду Німеччини. Вона додала, що “захист інтелектуальної власності є джерелом інновацій і має залишатися таким і в майбутньому”.

Що таке TRIPS

Угода TRIPS є невід’ємною частиною правової бази СОТ щодо інтелектуальної власності. Згідно зі статтею 27 (2) Угоди TRIPS, країни-члени СОТ можуть виключити патентоспроможність винаходів, необхідних для захисту здоров’я населення. Стаття 30 дозволяє учасникам робити обмежені винятки з прав, наданих патентом.

Серед іншого, угода, основною метою якої є захист прав інтелектуальної власності, також включає положення про примусове ліцензування або використання предмета патенту без дозволу правовласника (стаття 31). По суті, це означає, що “у разі надзвичайної ситуації в країні чи інших обставин надзвичайної невідкладності або у випадках некомерційного використання в державних цілях” держава-член може дозволити комусь іншому виробляти запатентований продукт без згоди власника патента.

Тоді як за звичайних обставин особа чи компанія, яка подає заявку на ліцензію, повинна спочатку спробувати отримати добровільну ліцензію у правовласника на розумних комерційних умовах (стаття 31b). Однак немає необхідності намагатися отримати добровільну ліцензію спочатку за гнучкістю TRIPS, про яку власне йде мова.

Таким чином, гнучкість TRIPS дозволяє країнам замінити глобальні правила інтелектуальної власності, щоб зменшити шкоду, заподіяну надзвичайною ситуацією, і в основному має предметом фармацевтичні препарати.

Поточні пропозиції Індії та Південної Африки спрямовані на більшу гнучкість, ніж передбачена в Угоді TRIPS.

Скасування патентів на вакцини є політичним та недалекоглядним рішенням.

Якими будуть наслідки

Імплементація пропозиції зробить можливим виробляння вакцин компаніями, які за нормальних умов могли би не отримати дозвіл на виготовлення вакцини через брак виробничих потужностей і знань загалом, чи можливості забезпечити правильне зберігання. Таким чином, після скасування патентів не буде жодних гарантій безпеки виробництва вакцин, що стане прямою загрозою для здоров’я людства. Якщо дози будуть вироблятись сторонніми постачальниками, спираючись на запатентовані формули та процеси, але без спеціалізації, це збільшить ризики псування вакцин або виготовлення поганих недіючих вакцин, які підірвуть вакцинацію загалом.

Фальшиві вакцини не просто підірвуть світовий вихід з пандемії, але й поставлять під загрозу життя та зменшать довіру до вакцин.

Кращий спосіб заохотити справедливий розподіл існуючих вакцин – це не усунути фінансові стимули а зробити те, що більшість виробників вакцин проти COVID-19 насправді вже роблять: зниження їх цін для країн, що розвиваються, або продаж вакцини на вартість. Розробники вакцини Оксфорд-АстраЗенека пообіцяли продавати за собівартістю, поки пандемія не закінчиться.

Чому важливо захистити права інтелектуальної власності

Противники прав інтелектуальної власності часто роблять помилку, сприймаючи інновації як належне, тим самим закриваючи очі на рушійну силу будь-якого виду підприємництва: економічні стимули. Патенти та різні інші форми інтелектуальної власності не є упередженими щодо винахідника. Навпаки, вони гарантують, що компанії можуть продовжувати впроваджувати інновації та постачати свою продукцію споживачам.

Короткотерміновим результатом зниження прав інтелектуальної власності буде розширений доступ до інновацій, але в довгостроковій перспективі інновацій не буде. 

Нам потрібно захищати права інтелектуальної власності, якщо ми хочемо перемогти коронавірус та багато інших захворювань. Пацієнти, яким одного разу можуть поставити діагноз невиліковних захворювань, таких як хвороба Альцгеймера, діабет або ВІЛ/СНІД, повинні скористатися шансом на отримання ліків, а захист прав інтелектуальної власності – це єдиний спосіб надати їм такий шанс.

Originally published here.

BRASIL TEM QUE FORTALECER AS LEIS DE PI PARA COMBATER A PANDEMIA E VOLTAR A CRESCER

Consumer Choice Center (Centro de Escolha do Consumidor) tem acompanhado de perto os efeitos da pandemia na vida dos consumidores, desde o acesso e distribuição da vacina até as consequências no mercado interno e international.

Para Fabio Fernandes, diretor global de Relações Institucionais e Governamentais da entidade de defesa do consumidor Consumer Choice Center, “agora que grande parte dos países do mundo tem acesso à vacina, a próxima luta não será contra o vírus mas pela recuperação econômica”

“As leis e acordos de propriedade intelectual como o TRIPs – do qual o Brasil é signatário – foram fundamentais na descoberta e desenvolvimento em um curtíssimo espaço de tempo da vacina para o COVID-19. Porém algumas pessoas querem flexibilizar essas regras, o que causaria danos irreversíveis” disse Fernandes.

“Precisamos permanecer firmes em nossa defesa dos direitos de propriedade intelectual se quisermos derrotar o coronavírus e as suas variantes, além de muitas outras doenças que hoje são incuráveis. Proteger a propriedade intelectual é a única maneira de dar a esses pacientes uma chance de cura. Se agirmos sem temperamento agora, expandindo ou flexibilizando a TRIPs e enfraquecermos ainda mais os direitos de PI, causaremos danos que dificilmente serão reversíveis, e o mundo pós-pandêmico terá de pagar a conta.”

No Brasil, o artigo 40 da Lei de Direitos de Propriedade Intelectual nº 9.279/1996 que está sendo julgado pelo STF, é um mecanismo criado para compensar atrasos administrativos do Inpi (Instituto Nacional de Propriedade Industrial) e concede automaticamente à patente uma exclusividade mínima de dez anos.

Para Fernandes “Os consumidores estão preocupados com a possibilidade de novos produtos, tecnologias e medicamentos não estarem disponíveis no Brasil por uma insegurança jurídica. A lei de propriedade intelectual no Brasil está de acordo com o padrão internacional e essa decisão do STF pode enfraquecer esse direito pondo em risco o futuro da inovação no Brasil”

“Vacinas para o setor de agropecuária, remédios contra o Câncer, componentes de informática como microchips para celulares, telecomunicações como a rede 5G e até Inteligência Artificial são alguns exemplos de produtos e inovações que podem atrasar ou até mesmo nunca chegarem ao mercado brasileiro se o Artigo 40 for derrubado” afirmou Fernandes.

“A raiz do problema não é o parágrafo 40 e sim os enormes atrasos que os órgãos públicos brasileiros causam na aprovação de patentes. Esses atrasos prejudicam não apenas as empresas que solicitam proteção de patentes, mas também os consumidores e pacientes que aguardam a aprovação das patentes para ver a entrada de produtos e medicamentos no mercado brasileiro.” explicou Fernandes.

“Os maiores interessados em derrubar o parágrafo 40 são as indústrias farmacêuticas de medicamentos genéricos e biossimilares, que usam os consumidores para fazer campanha para ‘redução nos preços’. O que precisamos na realidade é adotar políticas que baixem impostos e diminuam a burocracia e não aquelas que legalizam o roubo de propriedade intelectual, afinal, os consumidores querem as mais novas tecnologias com preços competitivos e não produtos velhos baratos.” argumentou Fernandes.

“A inovação é resultado de um ambiente de segurança jurídica que permita o inventor de ser remunerado pelo enorme tempo e dinheiro investido em desenvolver a nova tecnologia. Privar o inventor do seu direito acaba por privar também os consumidores acesso à inovações e o país de crescer economicamente no médio e longo prazo. Por isso a Estratégia Nacional de Propriedade Intelectual tem um horizonte de 10 anos” disse Fernandes.

“Qualquer tentativa de erodir a propriedade intelectual deve ser vista pelo que realmente é: uma ameaça à inovações futuras e à nossa recuperação econômica pós-pandemia.” concluiu Fernandes.

Originally published here.

Le Canada devrait bloquer une dispense de brevet pour les vaccins COVID

L’octroi d’une dérogation unique crée un dangereux précédent d’annulation des droits de propriété intellectuelle, mettant en péril l’innovation future et la vie de milliards de victimes de virus.

Affaires mondiales Canada n’a toujours pas pris de décision sur l’opportunité de soutenir une dérogation aux droits de propriété intellectuelle pour les vaccins COVID-19. Le Canada, ainsi que les États-Unis, l’UE, le Royaume-Uni, la Suisse, le Japon, la Norvège, l’Australie et le Brésil, ont tous retardé leur décision sur la «dérogation aux ADPIC» proposée par l’Inde et l’Afrique du Sud l’année dernière. L’ADPIC est le volet «Aspects des droits de propriété intellectuelle liés au commerce» de l’OMC.

L’Inde et l’Afrique du Sud sont soutenues par une coalition comprenant Médecins sans frontières, Human Rights Watch et le secrétaire général de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Leur argument en faveur de la dérogation est simple: cela supprimerait les barrières juridiques qui empêchent les pays en développement de produire leurs propres vaccins avec la technologie développée par les entreprises de vaccins.

Les partisans de la dérogation soutiennent que parce que le COVID représente une telle menace mondiale et que les vaccins ont maintenant été développés, les pays à revenu faible et intermédiaire devraient être autorisés à les fabriquer eux-mêmes – ceux qui ont la technologie et le capital humain pour le faire, c’est-à-dire.

Bien que l’objectif d’accroître la disponibilité des vaccins dans le monde en développement soit à la fois noble et réalisable, une dérogation à la propriété intellectuelle est une mauvaise façon d’y parvenir. L’annulation des droits de propriété intellectuelle détruit le fondement de ce qui rend l’innovation médicale possible. Les droits de propriété intellectuelle sont des protections qui contribuent à favoriser l’innovation et offrent une sécurité juridique aux innovateurs afin qu’ils puissent profiter de leurs efforts et les financer. Un affaiblissement des règles de propriété intellectuelle nuirait activement à tous ceux qui dépendent de médicaments et de vaccins innovants, y compris les plus vulnérables du monde.

Si le coût de la recherche et de la production d’un vaccin COVID est de 1 milliard de dollars, sans garantie de succès, il y a relativement peu de sociétés biotechnologiques ou pharmaceutiques qui peuvent supporter ce coût. Dans le cas du COVID, compte tenu des connaissances spécialisées nécessaires pour développer ces vaccins et de l’infrastructure de stockage frigorifique nécessaire pour en distribuer certains, il semble peu plausible qu’ils aient pu être développés sans les contrats d’approvisionnement traditionnels que nous avons vus en Amérique du Nord.

BioNTech, la société allemande dirigée par l’équipe mari-femme d’Uğur Şahin et Özlem Türeci qui s’est associée à Pfizer pour les essais et la distribution de leur vaccin ARNm, a été fondée à l’origine pour essayer de développer des moyens d’utiliser les techniques d’ARNm pour guérir le cancer. Avant la pandémie, il s’est endetté massivement et s’est brouillé pour financer ses recherches. Une fois que la pandémie a commencé, elle a fait pivoter ses opérations et a produit l’un des premiers vaccins à ARNm COVID, que des centaines de millions de personnes ont reçu.

Avec des milliards de dollars de ventes aux gouvernements et des centaines de millions d’investissements privés directs, nous pouvons nous attendre à ce que BioNTech, désormais florissante, soit à la pointe de la recherche sur le cancer à ARNm, ce qui pourrait éventuellement guérir la maladie. Il en va de même pour les nombreuses maladies «orphelines» et rares qui, autrement, ne reçoivent pas de financement majeur.

Cela aurait-il été possible sans les protections de la propriété intellectuelle? Non. Les protections de la propriété intellectuelle garantissent que les innovateurs peuvent profiter de leurs efforts, recouvrer leurs coûts et réinvestir dans la recherche et le développement de nouveaux médicaments et vaccins.

Une meilleure façon d’encourager une distribution équitable des vaccins existants est de ne pas éliminer les incitations financières pour en créer de nouveaux, mais de faire ce que la plupart des fabricants de vaccins COVID-19 font déjà en fait: réduire leurs prix pour les pays en développement ou vendre le vaccin à Coût. Les développeurs du vaccin Oxford-AstraZeneca se sont engagés à vendre au prix coûtant jusqu’à la fin de la pandémie.

Pour sa part, Moderna a volontairement décidé de ne pas appliquer les droits de propriété intellectuelle sur son vaccin ARNm tant que la pandémie n’est pas déclarée terminée. Après cela, Moderna reprendra l’application de ses droits de propriété intellectuelle sur sa technologie, ce qui lui permet de continuer à recouvrer les coûts et à financer la future R&D. La non-exécution est son droit, bien sûr: c’est le titulaire des droits. Les gouvernements et autres agences, y compris privées, peuvent également acheter des vaccins en vrac et les distribuer gratuitement aux pays à faible revenu, comme le fait le plan multilatéral COVAX.

Vous pourriez penser que ces concessions des producteurs de vaccins et les contributions des gouvernements suffiraient à réprimer les appels à la dissolution de la propriété intellectuelle, mais les partisans d’une dérogation à la propriété intellectuelle ont doublé. Médecins sans frontières, par exemple, souhaite que toutes les recherches et technologies liées aux vaccins COVID soient mises à la disposition des pays qui en ont besoin, ce qui équivaut à l’annulation complète des protections de propriété intellectuelle.

Plutôt que de célébrer l’innovation capitale qui, en un temps record, a conduit à près d’une douzaine de vaccins approuvés au niveau mondial pour lutter contre une pandémie mortelle, ces groupes diffusent un message populiste qui oppose les pays pauvres aux riches. S’il est encore politiquement à la mode de s’en tenir à «Big Pharma», même après avoir fourni les vaccins qui mettront fin à la pandémie, les conséquences de raids IP organisés de ce type seraient horribles.

Pour mettre fin à la pandémie actuelle et lutter efficacement contre les futures, nous avons besoin de l’innovation des producteurs de vaccins qui ont rendu possible la campagne mondiale actuelle de vaccination. L’octroi d’une dérogation supposée unique crée un dangereux précédent d’annulation des droits de propriété intellectuelle qui mettrait en péril l’innovation future et donc la vie de milliards de victimes de virus, actuelles et potentielles.

Originally published here.

Canada should block a patent waiver for COVID vaccines

Granting a one-time waiver creates dangerous precedent of nullifying IP rights, jeopardizing future innovation and lives of literally billions of virus victims

Global Affairs Canada still has not come to a decision on whether to support an intellectual property rights waiver for COVID-19 vaccines. Canada, along with the U.S., EU, U.K., Switzerland, Japan, Norway, Australia and Brazil, have all delayed deciding on the “TRIPS waiver” put forward by India and South Africa last year. TRIPS is the “Trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights” part of the WTO.

India and South Africa are supported by a coalition including Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and World Health Organization Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Their argument in favour of the waiver is simple: it would remove the legal barriers that prevent developing countries from producing their own vaccines with the technology developed by vaccine firms.

Waiver supporters argue that because COVID represents such a global threat and because the vaccines have now been developed, low and middle-income countries should be allowed to manufacture them on their own — those that have the technology and human capital to do so, that is.

Although the goal of increasing vaccine availability in the developing world is both noble and attainable, an IP waiver is a bad way to go about achieving it. Nullifying IP rights destroys the bedrock of what makes medical innovation possible. Intellectual property rights are protections that help foster innovation and provide legal certainty to innovators so they can profit from and fund their efforts. A weakening of IP rules would actively hurt everyone who depends on innovative medicines and vaccines, including the world’s most vulnerable.

If the cost of researching and producing a COVID vaccine is $1 billion, with no guarantee of success, there are relatively few biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies that can stomach that cost. In the case of COVID, considering the specialized knowledge needed to develop these vaccines and the cold storage infrastructure required to distribute some of them, it seems implausible that they could have been developed without the traditional procurement contracts we’ve seen in North America.

BioNTech, the German company headed by the husband-wife team of Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci that partnered with Pfizer for trials and distribution of their mRNA vaccine, was originally founded to try to develop ways of using mRNA techniques to cure cancer. Before the pandemic, it took on massive debt and scrambled to fund its research. Once the pandemic began, it pivoted its operations and produced one of the first mRNA COVID vaccines, which hundreds of millions of people have received.

Originally published here.

How to tackle obesity in the EU

With the end of the pandemic in sight, European policymakers are reflecting on what could have been done to prevent the damage.

Obesity, recognised by many scientists as a severe risk factor COVID-19, is likely to top the European policy agenda. However, while the temptation to slide into paternalism and impose advertising and marketing restrictions, or potentially, sin taxes is high, it is crucial to follow the evidence and protect the freedom to choose.

Earlier this month, Members of the European Parliament debated the possibility of introducing EU-wide rules to restrict junk food ads targeting children, while Germany pushed the self-regulating body of the ad industry to tighten its rules in regards to junk food advertising. 

Currently, there is no common EU definition on what makes for junk food but there have been multiple attempts to introduce Union-wide regulation of advertising. Article 9.4 of the updated 2018 Audiovisual Media Services Directive 2010/13/EU encourages the use of co-regulation and the fostering of self-regulation through codes of conduct regarding salty or sugary foods. However, Germany’s new regulation is wider in scope and aims to integrate all online channels that can have an impact on children’s nutrition choices. Germany’s shift towards more paternalism will be felt across the Union, and there is every reason to expect other member states to follow.

The link between advertising — in particular TV ads — and childhood obesity is unfounded. If it was possible to reduce obesity with the help of advertising bans, the success of such a strategy would be also visible in regards to other products such as alcohol. One study looked at bans on broadcast advertising in seventeen OECD countries for the years 1975-2000, concerning per capita alcohol consumption. It was found that a complete ban of broadcast advertising of all beverages does not affect consumption relative to countries that do not ban broadcast advertising.

Advertising or marketing bans stem from the assumption that the sole reason why obesity develops and persists is due to poor nutrition. But that is not the case: obesity is a matter of physical inactivity too. According to a report published by the European Commission and WHO in 2018, only 19% of 11-13-year olds in Germany were physically active. The situation is disastrous, and by opting for junk food ad bans, the German government will simply regulate in the wrong direction.

The effectiveness of these bans is highly questionable too. The UK recently dropped its plans to introduce such a ban because it was found that nutrition would have been decreased by slightly more than 1000 calories per year per child, but have a negative impact on businesses and consumers.

In order to tackle child obesity, we should encourage parental responsibility. Childrens’ choices are heavily dependent on the environment where they grow up and often model behaviours that are treated as acceptable. Parents who don’t lead healthy lifestyles will likely make it seem like exercising and eating vegetables is less rewarding than lying on a couch all day long and drinking soda. Furthermore, it is crucial that parents display healthy eating behaviour through activities such as family meals.

Instead of resorting to advertising and marketing bans, the EU and member states should also focus on educating children about junk food consumption and general health to ensure they can make informed and responsible consumer decisions.

Originally published here.

Why Covid lockdown might be bad for our dental health – and the unlikely solution

By now, we are all well-versed in the health problems associated with Covid-19. But the knock-on effects in other areas of healthcare are only beginning to become clear more than a year after lockdown became the new normality. From difficulties faced by cancer patients to the mental health consequences of being confined to our homes, the fallout from the pandemic has been deeply harmful in a whole range of areas.

But one of those areas has been largely neglected so far. The effects of Covid and lockdown on our dental health have been almost entirely absent from the public forum. Thanks to the cancellation of practically all non-emergency healthcare in order to focus finite resources on fighting coronavirus, the normal routine of regular check-ups and quick diagnoses has disappeared, which could have a very serious effect in the longer term.

As a result, a vast array of minor oral health conditions have probably gone unnoticed in the last year. They have therefore been allowed to fester and when they are eventually discovered once normal healthcare service has resumed and they have to be treated, much more serious and extensive procedures might be required.

The problem goes far beyond your teeth. Countless serious medical conditions start in the mouth and are first picked up on by dentists. Periodontitis, for instance, is a bacterial inflammation of the gum tissue which can cause bleeding. If left untreated, periodontitis can go on to cause other serious issues in a domino effect when that bacteria contaminates the bloodstream. Heart valve infections, abscesses and even life-threatening sepsis, which sometimes causes damage to multiple organ systems, can all come about because of an unaddressed problem in the gums.

Present this information to a politician – especially one in the current government – and their response would be quite predictable. On health policy, Boris Johnson’s nominally Conservative government has embraced the interventionist doctrine of the nanny state. Tax this, ban that. From advertising restrictions to sin taxes, ministers’ instinct when they identify what they deem to be a public health problems seems to be to interfere.

But the hidden dental health pandemic is a perfect example of why the free market, not the state, is best placed to tackle these kinds of problems. Cutting-edge scientific research is suggesting that the simple act of chewing can single-handedly solve a great deal of oral health problems, meaning that a product as simple and innocuous as sugar-free chewing gum might be a silver bullet to this whole category of issues.

When you chew, you produce saliva, which has myriad positive consequences including rebalancing the pH in your mouth and churning out countless healthy minerals like calcium and phosphate ions. Chewing sugar-free gum has other positive effects, too, from helping people quit smoking to reducing appetite, resulting in less snacking and therefore weight loss.

In other words, pioneering research is showing us that accessible, everyday products which are already on the market can address underlying public health concerns, without the disadvantages of a clattering intervention from the state.

The government likes to talk up post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ as a world leader in scientific research. If that is to be the case, it’s time to abandon the nanny state mindset and allow the free market – and our world-class universities and research institutes – to take up their rightful place on the front line of any and all public health battles. In the case of dental health, that is already happening – let’s just hope the government don’t take it upon themselves to interfere.

Originally published here.

The global organizations and populists who aim to seize COVID vaccine tech and IP

When Donald Trump claimed in September 2020 that every American would have access to vaccines by April 2021, his comments received scorn. The Washington Post said his claims were “without evidence,” CNN quoted health experts who said it was impossible, and The New York Times claimed it would take another decade.

Now, a year into this pandemic, nearly half of the eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose in the U.S., and distribution has been opened to every American adult.

Operation Warp Speed, which invested tax dollars and helped reduce bureaucracy across the board, has contributed to what has truly been a miraculous effort by vaccine firms.

While Trump’s proclamations eventually become true and the question of vaccine ability has been settled, there is now pressure on the Biden administration to turn over domestic vaccine supply to countries with skyrocketing cases.

On Sunday, the U.S. declared it will send additional medical supplies to India, currently experiencing the largest global spike in cases.

But at international bodies, countries and activist groups are petitioning for far more: they want to force biotech companies to waive intellectual property rights on vaccines and COVID-related medical technology.

Along with nearly 100 other countries, India and South Africa are the architects of a motion at the World Trade Organization called a TRIPS Waiver (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).

If the waiver is triggered, it would ostensibly nullify IP protections on COVID vaccines, allowing other countries to copy the formulas developed by private vaccine firms to inoculate their populations and play into the hands of future governments more hostile to private innovation.

This week, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with the heads of the various vaccine makers to discuss the proposal, but it is uncertain if the Biden administration will support the measure at the WTO.

While many companies have voluntarily pledged to sell them at cost or even offered to share information with other firms, this measure would have more far-reaching implications.

This coalition seeking the TRIPS waiver includes Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and World Health Organization Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who first backed this effort in 2020 before any coronavirus vaccine was approved.

They claim that because COVID represents such a global threat and because western governments have poured billions in securing and helping produce vaccines, low and middle-income countries should be relieved of the burden of purchasing them.

Considering the specialized knowledge needed to develop these vaccines and the cold storage infrastructure required to distribute them, it seems implausible that any of this could be achieved outside the traditional procurement contracts we’ve seen in the European Union and the U.S.

That said, rather than celebrating the momentous innovation that has led to nearly a dozen globally-approved vaccines to fight a deadly pandemic in record time, these groups are trumpeting a populist message that pits so-called “rich” countries against poor ones.

Intellectual property rights are protections that help foster innovation and provide legal certainty to innovators so that they can profit from and fund their efforts. A weakening of IP rules would actively hurt the most vulnerable who depend on innovative medicines and vaccines.

If the cost of researching and producing a COVID vaccine is truly $1 billion as is claimed, with no guarantee of success, there are relatively few biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies that can stomach that cost.

BioNTech, the German company headed by the husband-wife team of Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci that partnered with Pfizer for trials and distribution of their mRNA vaccine, was originally founded to use mRNA to cure cancer.

Before the pandemic, they took on massive debt and scrambled to fund their research. Once the pandemic began, they pivoted their operations and produced one of the first mRNA COVID vaccines, which hundreds of millions of people have received.

With billions in sales to governments and millions in direct private investment, we can expect the now-flourishing BioNTech to be at the forefront of mRNA cancer research, which could give us a cure. The same is true of the many orphan and rare diseases that do not otherwise receive major funding.

Would this have been possible without intellectual property protections?

Moderna, for its part, has stated it will not enforce the IP rights on its mRNA vaccine and will hand over any research to those who can scale up production. The developers of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have pledged to sell it at cost until the pandemic is over.

While this should smash the narrative presented by the populists and international organizations who wish to obliterate IP rights, instead they have doubled down, stating that these companies should hand over all research and development to countries that need them.

If we want to be able to confront and end this pandemic, we will continue to need innovation from both the vaccine makers and producers who make this possible. Granting a one-time waiver will create a precedent of nullifying IP rights for a host of other medicines, which would greatly endanger future innovation and millions of potential patients.

Especially in the face of morphing COVID variants, we need all incentives on the table to protect us against the next phase of the virus. 

Rather than seeking to tear them down those who have performed the miracle of quick, cheap, and effective vaccines, we should continue supporting their innovations by defending their intellectual property rights.

Yaël Ossowski (@YaelOss) is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group.

Like Greta Thunberg, the WHO values virtue-signaling over policy outcomes

Teenage climate protester Greta Thunberg seems to have grown bored of skipping school to hold up placards about the death of the planet. Last week, she found a new pet cause: “vaccine equity.” Addressing “governments, vaccine developers, and the world,” she joined forces with the World Health Organization to blast “rich countries” for offering their populations too many vaccine doses.

You might not think that the WHO and an 18-year-old Swedish eco-truant would have a great deal in common, but Thunberg and the WHO do share one passion: virtue-signaling. Both have a strong track record of issuing diktats to sovereign governments around the world and telling elected politicians what to do.

In Thunberg’s case, that led to the rise of the hard-left Extinction Rebellion group and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which has just been revived. In the case of the WHO, which is funded by nearly $5 billion over two years to safeguard our health, an unrelenting focus on virtue-signaling led to an appalling negligence of vital pandemic preparations, leading to the deaths of more than 3 million people from the coronavirus.

But the problems with the WHO began long before the first case of the coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Most fundamentally, it has lost sight of its purpose. It has enlarged its operations far beyond the reason it was created. For decades, the WHO has been quietly expanding its responsibility to include much more than health emergencies. It now routinely wastes time and money by interfering in domestic politics through regulatory interventions designed to change the way people live their lives.

When it should have been focusing on communicable diseases, the WHO was instead spending its time and vast resources campaigning on lifestyle issues — and flagrantly undermining the sovereignty of national governments in the process. From tobacco taxes to alcohol laws, from sugar and salt taxes to vaping restrictions, the WHO seems to greatly enjoy lecturing us about everyday indulgences and making it harder for us to access products we want.

The default position of statist bureaucrats who run unaccountable international governing bodies such as the WHO is to deny people the right to manage their own health and lifestyle, calling for effective harm reduction products to be banned and instead insisting on authoritarian measures such as mandatory health warnings, prohibition legislation, advertising bans, and excise taxes.

Half the time, the arbitrary positions adopted by the WHO (“you drink too much,” “salt is bad for you”) are factually incorrect. Take e-cigarettes, for example. Last year, the WHO laid the groundwork for its new vaping policy strategy with a briefing on its website, along with a splash of publicity. The problem was that the briefing seemed to contain a plethora of basic scientific errors. It was panned by experts in the field, leading the WHO to edit it quietly without telling anyone.

Even putting apparent scientific inaccuracies to one side, where does the WHO derive the legitimacy to tell us how to live our lives? Perhaps more importantly, what gives it the right to instruct democratic governments on domestic politics? Unlike Thunberg, the WHO cannot be dismissed with a photo opportunity or two. It demands action, even when it has no right to do so.

When President Donald Trump moved to withdraw the United States from the WHO last year, there was a great deal of squealing and squawking from people who apparently believe that the WHO provides citizens and governments with an invaluable service. New Jersey Democrat Sen. Bob Mendez of the Foreign Relations Committee said at the time that distancing from the WHO “leaves Americans sick and America alone.”

Besides cozying up to the Chinese Communist Party, it is unclear what service the WHO provides to America. Its leadership on COVID-19 has been nonexistent; the tragic 3 million deaths are evidence of that. Its interventions against harm-reduction policies are actively damaging to public health outcomes. If it is to justify its funding, the WHO must dispense with the Greta-esque virtue-signaling and instead refocus on positive health outcomes, especially on communicable diseases, which is where international guidance is truly needed.

Originally published here.

After Covid disaster surely game’s up for pitiable World Health Organizaton COMMENT

SINCE the first case of Covid was detected in Wuhan in December 2019, the coronavirus has infected more than 130 million people across the world, killing almost three million.

Many thousands of words have been written about the failures of local health authorities like Public Health England in preparing us for a pandemic, but perhaps the most important body of all has still not been properly held to account: the World Health Organization. Before 2020, most Brits probably didn’t know very much, if anything, about the WHO. It’s an arm of the United Nations, like the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organization, spending most of its time working away in the background to safeguard against health emergencies, leaving the rest of us to get on with our lives.

Except, of course, as we have now learned, the WHO was wilfully neglecting its duties and generally doing a terrible job, at enormous cost.

The WHO was wildly unprepared for the pandemic – with tragic consequences – because it spent much of its time playing politics rather than serving its purpose.

It failed to do any of the things it should have done when the virus first broke out, even those as fundamental as being transparent about what was going on.

It wasted valuable time before declaring a pandemic. It cosied up to China rather than tracing the origin of the virus. It issued actively harmful advice against masks.

Put simply, it is hard to imagine how a well-funded body charged with protecting people’s health could possibly have performed any worse.

Even putting aside its appallingly close political relationship with the dictatorial, genocidal Chinese Communist Party, the WHO failed to perform its most basic function, tripping up at every hurdle.

If the world had been better prepared, perhaps Covid would not have resulted in the unnecessary deaths of millions of people.

The WHO has form when it comes to mishandling epidemics. During the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, and again during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, it came in for widespread criticism.

One of the factors singled out as a cause of its mismanagement of these crises was an aversion to offending member states, in exactly the same way that it is now loath to offend China.

There’s no reason why these awful failures should be the new normal. In the 20th century, the WHO was effectively responsible for eradicating smallpox. But since then, things seem to have gone drastically downhill.

The WHO has patently failed to adequately address the scourge of anti-vaxxers leading to diseases like measles, which were all but eradicated, but which are now making a comeback around the world.

The WHO also received widespread criticism from animal conservation groups for recognising traditional Chinese medicine in its international guidelines after lobbying by Beijing, despite its role in driving the illegal trade and poaching of endangered species including pangolins and tigers — a trade that might ironically have contributed to the coronavirus’s outbreak in the first place.

The problems with the WHO run deep. It should not have taken a once-in-a-generation health disaster to expose them.

It’s time to ask some existential and probing questions. What is the WHO? What is it for? Where are its vast funds coming from? At the moment, it is trying to pretend it is both a humble, do-gooder charity which just has our best interests at heart and an all-powerful supranational organisation. It wants to be the undisputed centre of power for healthcare around the world, but without ever being held accountable for its actions. If the WHO is a charity, it should not be playing politics and cosying up to dictatorial regimes. If it’s not a charity, it must be subject to proper democratic oversight.

The WHO has not expressed any hint of remorse over its failures. There is no reason to think it is going to voluntarily change the way it operates. It’s high time for the rest of us to stand up to it and demand some answers.

Originally published here.

Scroll to top