MSF responds to USTR Special 301 Report 202

New Delhi, 30 April 2020— Amidst the ongoing global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual “Special 301 Report”targeting countries for implementing and supporting public health safeguard in their intellectual property laws and policies. In the 2020 report, countries like India, Brazil, China, Chile and Canada, have faced unwarranted pressure from the United States Government for measures adopted by them to ensure access to medicines. 

The USTR through its annual Special 301 report targets countries, which it considers of having inadequate intellectual property protection and enforcement. At the behest of the pharmaceutical corporations, the Special 301 report continues to threaten India, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Chile and several other countries for their patentability criteria, use of compulsory licensing and absence of additional market exclusivities

The COVID-19 pandemic brings to light how intellectual property and other exclusivities are an impediment to access treatment, diagnostics, and vaccines globally. As a consequence, a growing number of countries — from Chile to Germany — have indicated that they are prepared to issue compulsory licences to overcome monopoly control over medical tools to address the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, the US government instead of finding ways to address the barriers is favoring these monopolies. The USTR has criticised  more recently the Netherlandsfor its plan of adapting more public health friendly compulsory license rules. The emergency coronavirus spending bills adopted in March in Washington DCleft out provisionsthat would have limited big pharma’s intellectual property rightsand allowed the government to take actionwhen public-funded medicines are highly-priced. Moreover, right now, the Special 301 report is another strike to block more affordable generic versions of medicines and keep their prices high even in the middle of the pandemic.  

Statement fromLeena Menghaney, MSF Access Campaign

“At a time when governments across the globe are struggling to provide adequate healthcare, it is ludicrous that the USTR is continuing to aid pharmaceutical corporations to profit from the abuse of intellectual property. It is a matter of concern that the US government is going after countries in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic for encouraging generic competition and price lowering mechanisms to ensure access to medicines. 

Medicines are meant to save lives, but what is the use of such medicines if they are unfordable and inaccessible to millions of people even during a global health crisis. India, which has been on this watch list for years is a major supplier of drugs across the globe, particularly in low and middle-income countries. However, the US has been criticizing the very same IP and medicines policies that ensure un-interrupted global supply of medicines to many low and middle-income countries.

Instead of pressuring countries like India for making use of public health safeguards consistent with international trade and intellectual property rules, the US Government should take this opportunity to increase global collaboration, mitigate this public health crisis looming humanity, and favor mandatory open sharing of COVID-19 technologies. At this moment, in the absence of any global framework to ensure access to life-saving medical tools, it is imperative that countries promote flexibilities available under international trade rules to overcome barriers to COVID-19 treatments, diagnostics and vaccines.”   

For interviews, please contact Leena Menghaney: +91-9811365412 

Roshan John: +91-9098675598

About Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign

In 1999, in the wake of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, MSF launched the Access Campaign. Its purpose has been to push for access to, and the development of life-saving and life prolonging medicines, diagnostic tests and vaccines for patients in MSF programmes and beyond.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign
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