U.S. likely to propose language on incentivising innovation: COVID-19 resolution at WHA 73

The U.S. might push for new language on incentivising innovation to the existing draft resolution.

Sources told Geneva Health Files, that the U.S. has expressed reservations on the draft COVID-19 response resolution and is proposing additional language on “incentivising innovation”. While, it is not clear whether this means that the silence procedure has been broken. (The World Health Assembly (WHA) had already considered the adoption of special procedures for the conduct of de minimis meetings) The suggestion expressed by the U.S. for an additional paragraph articulating protection for intellectual property rights may come for discussion when the resolution will be taken up today.

It seems that the U.S. has proposed an alternative to the following paragraph (OP4)  in the resolution (“OP4 bis” not tabled in the draft), and would prefer to insert language on protection to “incentives” – in effect to “neutralize” the language around TRIPS Flexibilities – a reference the US was not happy with.

The resolution will not be “opened up for negotiation” during the Assembly, but is likely that this specific para will be taken up and discussed. It is understood that member states are already aware of this new suggestion by the U.S.

Having language on incentives to innovation, will likely protect its investments in the context of the pandemic going forward – including existing drugs of American companies, protected by patents.    

The FT and others, had reported that the U.S. had planned to disassociate itself from certain sections of the resolution including on existing legal rights to override patent protection and language on services for sexual and reproductive health.

One can hazard a guess, whether other countries seeking stronger protection for IP rights, will also join the U.S., in its suggestion to this draft resolution, now supported by more than 100 countries.

Some experts are linking the US threat of permanent suspension of funds to the WHO (Announced by President Trump) – with its inability to have shaped this resolution as per its interests. But it is hard to establish such a link at this point.

The contentious para as it reads now:

OP4 Calls for the universal, timely and equitable access to and fair distribution of all quality, safe efficacious and affordable essential health technologies and products including their components and precursors required in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a global priority, and the urgent removal of unjustified obstacles thereto; consistent with the provisions of relevant international treaties including the provisions of the TRIPS agreement and the flexibilities as confirmed by the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health;

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