Patents Must Not Block Coronavirus Treatment

In Featured, Global by Ged Kenslea


As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to rage in China and has spread to 29 other countries or territories, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) urges all responsible parties to ensure that no access-limiting patents are issued for any possible treatments for the deadly virus.


A potential patent dispute in China over Gilead Sciences’ promising experimental drug remdesivir has raised concerns after Chinese pharmaceutical company BrightGene copied the drug without a license and also filed for a patent. Gilead has been waiting for patent approval for remdesivir in China since 2016.


“The last thing this outbreak response needs is a battle over patents for a drug that, at least in these early stages, appears to have some success against this coronavirus,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “Researchers all over the world are scrambling to find a cure ­– that should remain the focus – not strategizing for more profits using patents that could potentially limit access to an effective treatment.”


There are currently more than 75,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and 2,126 people have died – including Dr. Liu Zhiming, the head of the Wuchang hospital in Wuhan, the city where the virus originated.


Dr. Jorge Saavedra, AHF’s Executive Director of the Global Public Health Institute at the University Of Miami also commented on how truly bizarre it is to be discussing patents in the middle of an international health emergency, when stamping out the coronavirus as fast as possible should be the number one priority.


A current trial being conducted for remdesivir is one among more than 80 currently running or pending clinical trials in China attempting to combat COVID-19.


“When a house is on fire you grab the nearest hose and start putting out the blaze—worrying later about who owned the hose or the water source,” added AHF Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy Terri Ford. Big pharma can fight over more profits after we’re positive the virus is under control—right now lives are at stake and time is of the essence.”


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