Drugmakers push back on vaccine patent waiver

Drugmakers are pushing back against U.S. President Joe Biden’s show of support for waiving patents of COVID-19 vaccines.

Research-based pharmaceutical companies say such a move could disrupt a fragile supply chain… and that rich countries should instead share more with the developing world.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations on Thursday said waiving intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines would invite new manufacturers that lack essential know-how to crowd out established contractors.

It would also set a bad precedent, says European patent attorney Micaela Modiano:

"...It’s because of the patents that companies keep investing money into, looking for new treatments, better treatments and better vaccines, better drugs. And and you would not have this kind of investment if if there wasn't a proper reward for these companies. So the patent system was involved in for this system. And I think it's, if I may say so, a bit silly to try to reinvent it now.”

Shares of COVID-19 vaccine makers were initially rattled late on Wednesday after Biden said he backed a WTO-proposed waiver… and shares fell on Thursday.

But the WTO and the WHO applauded Biden's show of support... as they aim to help developing countries produce vaccines using the IP of pharmaceutical companies.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said vaccinating the globe against COVID-19 needs to be sped up to beat mutations of the virus... and described a patent waiver as "one possible means” of increasing access to vaccines.

The next stop is for the World Trade Organization to hammer out a deal - but with lengthy negotiations, the process that could take months.