Rebutting pharma’s rejection of a global COVID-19 IP waiver

By Felipe Carvalho, Yuanqiong Hu, Leena Menghaney

In response to the COVID-19 “TRIPS waiver” proposal submitted by South Africa and India for a temporary waiver from certain pharmaceutical intellectual property (IP) obligations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), Thomas Cueni, the director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) recently published an opinion piece in The New York Times that spoke up against the waiver and in support of keeping the current industry-led IP monopolies in place during the pandemic. Here the authors vigorously rebut Cueni’s position and examine how and why his arguments are flawed.


Felipe de Carvalho, MSF Access Campaign Advocacy Advisor, Brazil

Brazil’s Supreme Court recently handed down a decision to make a 25-year-old law permitting pharma companies to extend their monopolies on new drugs unconstitutional. It’s an important victory for access to medicines as Felipe de Carvalho explains in conversation with us.

Access Campaign: First, congratulations! This has been a very long struggle — the pharmaceutical industry has been trying to block any revision of this law for many years, why is that?

Felipe de Carvalho: Yes, it’s really a fantastic moment for all of us here who have been fighting for…

Alain Alsalhani, Vaccines and Special Projects Pharmacist
Manuel Martin, Medical Innovation and Access Policy Advisor
Lara Dovifat, Campaigns Manager
MSF Access Campaign

The global inequity in access to COVID-19 vaccine doses has received significant attention over the past couple of months, but few have paid attention to one of the root causes exacerbating this inequity: control of knowledge and technical capacity to produce these vaccines has been in the hands of just a few manufacturers. …

Gilles Van Cutsem, Leader of the AIDS Working Group and Senior HIV/TB Adviser, MSF
Amanda Banda, HIV/AIDS Advocacy Consultant, MSF

Can we do what needs to be done to stop people dying from HIV/AIDS? Maybe — but only if we pay more attention to the people who are most at risk of dying. World leaders are discussing the next steps in the fight against the disease at the UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS on the 8-10th of June. …

Dr. Salih M. Auwal, Shinkafi, Nigeria

I am responsible in our clinic for ensuring that no one brings in COVID-19. So far, we have succeeded. Every patient is screened and tested. As a result, we have detected quite a few cases. Of course, I’m always a little worried of catching it myself. But we have enough protective equipment in our clinic. The situation is different in the state clinics. There, to this day, the staff do not have sufficient masks, sometimes not even gloves.

Dr. Salih M. Auwal works in an MSF clinic in Shinkafi, Zamara State of Nigeria. © MSF/Abayomi Akande

In Nigeria, if you come as a patient with suspected COVID-19 to the admissions department of…

Adam Houston, Medical Policy & Advocacy Officer, and Jason Nickerson, Humanitarian Affairs Advisor, MSF Canada

In July of 2020, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the first of eight national leaders whose names appeared in an op-ed in the Washington Post that closed with the following call to action: “We call on global leaders to commit to contributing to an equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, based on the spirit of a greater freedom for all.”

Nine months on, Canada has secured more than 10 doses of COVID-19 vaccine for every Canadian but, despite vague public announcements, has still not…

We’re in a time of unprecedented mobilisation to tackle COVID-19. Over the last year, governments and philanthropies have contributed billions of dollars to the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines. Heads of state have spoken about making the vaccines “global public goods”, and the COVAX Facility was launched to deliver COVID-19 vaccines equitably across the world.

But, one year on, we face huge vaccine inequity around the world, with just 0.2% of all vaccines going to low-income countries.

Here we share recommendations to help ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are accessible for everyone who needs them.

We need global solidarity to…

Addressing the challenge of excessive use while at the same time assuring sustainable supply of essential antibiotics is key to making health systems resilient to both COVID-19 and antibiotic resistance. The authors explore these interlinked challenges with a special focus on the situation in India.

By Dusan Jasovsky, Jyotsna Singh, and Leena Menghaney

© Shutterstock

Effective antibiotics are the cornerstone of modern medical practice. The advent of antibiotics significantly increased the chances of surviving serious bacterial infectious diseases. As well, antibiotic therapy has enabled the development of chemotherapy, organ transplantation, surgery in general and a wide range of medical interventions over the past eight decades.

However, in India, poor availability and use of diagnostics, insufficient antibiotic stewardship and compromised infection control both in community and hospital settings result in over-reliance on and over-use of antibiotics. …

Lara Dovifat, Campaign and Advocacy Advisor, MSF Access Campaign

© Peter Bauza

“Medicines shouldn’t be a luxury”: For over ten years, I have been working with inspiring teams around the globe creating and coordinating public campaigns that ignite people’s imaginations and change lives.

Today, on World Tuberculosis (TB) Day 2021, I want to look back on our #NoMoreTears campaign to get the pharmaceutical corporation Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to lower the price of bedaquiline, an important drug to treat people with drug-resistant TB, and share five things I learned from that successful campaign.

Lesson #1. David vs Goliath: You can do it!


Julien Potet, MSF Access Campaign Policy Advisor, NTDs and Vaccines

As vaccines against the coronavirus begin to be rolled-out around the world — albeit almost exclusively in rich countries for the moment — there is another piece of good news about a vaccine against another terrifying viral disease — Ebola.

A child recieves a shot of the Ebola vaccine at a vaccination point set up in the community of Kimbangu in the city of Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2019. © Samuel Sieber/MSF

This week brings the launch of an international stockpile of effective Ebola vaccines. It is to be managed by the International Coordinating Group on vaccine provision (ICG), under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), with MSF participating as a member of this group.

This is positive overall, and…

MSF Access Campaign — Medicines Are Not a Luxury

This blog is a place to reflect on our experiences working for access to medicines. For the official MSF Access Campaign website please visit

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