Rome, December 29 – Covid’s emergency – which we may have over-optimistically thought we had left behind, at least in its bloodiest phases – reappeared throughout the drama. The numbers of infections have reached and surpassed those of the previous year, even though vaccines (with all due respect to no vaxes) have reduced the risk of disease and reduced hospitalization and intensive care, while also reducing the number of deaths. which – to remember – the vast majority of us see as protagonists our fellow citizens who do not want to know how to be vaccinated.
In addition to the steps our government will take to respond to this new attack on Sars CoV 2, backed by the Omicron variant, which is now responsible for 50% or more of infections and (according to expert forecasts) ) which is destined to defeat other variants in a very short time and to remain the undisputed master of the field, it is becoming increasingly clear that the pandemic – precisely because of the rapid succession of variants favored by the asymmetries of the vaccine response in the world – can only fight with a truly global approach. In short, no country can be saved: the fight against Covid can only be won if the vaccines are available not only for the ordinary happy few of advanced countries, but for all citizens of the planet, including those living in emerging countries characterized by very weak health systems and unable to launch mass vaccination campaigns and in countries that, unfortunately, do not even have the prospect of emerging.
This raises a topical issue which – given its necessity, urgency and centrality – we discuss and discuss very little, namely the suspension of vaccine patents, to ensure that it can be produced at low costs virtually anywhere in the world. Proposals in this sense have also been promoted in the highest political forums (including the G20), but without going beyond the declarations of commitment. And so the asymmetries not only persist but worsen and, with them, the possibility of the world coming out of Covid’s nightmare disappears.
“Without a radical change of course, the pandemic will continue to cause casualties and increase the risk of dangerous variants.“He warned the WHO himself, without, however, following a specific event in his own warning essentially aimed at the temporary release of patents to put an end to the scandalous inequality in access to vaccines.
The (critical) issue is dedicated to the editorial of the latest issue of the Assofarm newsletter, which is signed by the Secretary General of Public Pharmacies. Francesco Schito. Which, of course, made the video an overnight sensation “A morally acceptable position, even for us”, notes that “The almost forty years of experience of such battles should teach us that its practicality is almost zero. It never seems to us that solidarity has ever happened to win over and change the capitalist structures and logics of a particular economic sector in their favor. “This did not apply to public debt, to weapons, to raw materials, to other medicines, to the rules of world trade, to economics.” observes Schito. “So why not try to achieve the goal of affordable vaccines through an alternative proposal for the abolition of patents?”
A sentence which, obviously, Schito formulates and expresses, albeit in general terms: “Pharmaceutical economics teaches us that after the expiration of a patent, the pharmaceutical industry that owns it has earned an average of 10 times the resulting costs.” writes the secretary of Assofarm. “If all advanced economies today paid the expected profits for the entire patent period, they would make the vaccines available to everyone in a short period of time and do so without changing the rules and cultures of the market.. The financial commitment of this company would certainly be huge, but it will most likely be recovered from the financial recovery that resulted from a faster exit from the health crisis. A global and steady circulation this time “.
It would look like Columbus’ egg, but Schito himself knows very well that it is not so: “Non vwe want to make it very easy. We also know that carrying out such a project would require at least months of comparisons and negotiations by donor countries, not to mention the lack of healthcare staff required to distribute billions in doses to Africa and Asia.“Writes the head of the federation of public pharmacies. “However, we believe that such challenges need to be addressed from time to time, especially by those like us who are involved in the health of their country. A country that in recent months, in terms of its ability to protect the health of its citizens, has written positive pages in its history. In recent months we have shown that we have a sense of citizenship, organizational and design skills. Reinforced by these results and by the growing international appreciation they gave us “. Schito completes his reasoning “We could afford to make proposals that are certainly dangerous, but also insightful and perhaps necessary.”
PI.to contribute to the discussion on the subject, REFday (which has been following the question carefully and consistently for quite some time, giving plenty of space – most recently here, two days ago – in all initiatives aimed at finding a viable solution to a problem on which a significant part of the immediate future of the world depends) rejoices the Schito proposal, reminding, however, that it is not entirely correct to say that the moratorium patents have not produced results in the past. In the meantime, there is the milestone of the drug law enacted by Nelson Mandela (in the picture) in a state of complete AIDS emergency in the 1990s, which was the beginning of an epic battle against Big Pharma. Mandela, faced with the scars of HIV-induced deaths and the unsustainable cost of the first, effective antiviral drugs, passed a law allowing his country to produce generics of these drugs without paying for patents or importing them from countries that sold them at lower prices.
The companies reacted immediately and harshly: in 1998, a cartel of 39 multinationals blocked its implementation Drug action, alleging infringement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) patents. A decision, that of Big Pharma, with devastating consequences on human lives: in the next three years 400 thousand South Africans with AIDS died from lack of medicine.
The lawsuit sought by Big Pharma against him Drugs work Mandela arrived in Pretoria court in March 2001 and there, despite massive efforts by companies to block the law forever and discourage other countries from adopting similar ones in the future, the unthinkable happened: the court, paradoxically, accepted her request. African civil society, called on companies to provide an account, providing evidence, on the reasons behind the very high cost of their anti-HIV drugs. The multinationals asked for four months to collect the data, the judge gave them only three weeks. On April 19, 2001, a date that in its own way became historic, and due to the pressure of the whole world public opinion, the multinationals withdrew the accusations.
It was the first historic success against commercial interests in the health sector, although in fact it was a very partial victory, as on 14 May 2001 the Pretoria Health Minister told Guardian that South Africa would not have produced generic anti-HIV drugs anyway and would not have imported them from other developing countries. However, something had changed and was much more apparent when on November 13, 2001, the battle for access to drugs landed in Doha, the site of the WTO summit that year. On this occasion, the Member States stated this “Nothing in the WTO intellectual property agreements can prevent Member States from taking measures to guarantee public health.” Therefore, to produce generic drugs ignoring the patents that protect them or to import them from poor countries that sell them at lower prices than those imposed by pharmaceutical multinationals. The adoption of this principle – which represented another great confirmation of the superiority of health over the economy – is precisely the cornerstone that – if only the EU, the governments of the countries that are part of it and the US – decided to finally give their formal consent, leaving the declarative chimneys – would allow “Suspension of vaccine patents for the safety of us all”, as demanded by the promoters of the European campaign for more than a year Right2Cure No profit in the pandemic released on 1 December 2020. Much depends (as many years ago in Pretoria) on the pressures that civil society and public opinion will want and know to exert: in this respect, our newspaper – no matter how small is- knows which side takes sides.