In June 2020, Gilead agreed to provide the USA with 500 000 doses of remdesivir—an antiviral drug which at that time was percieved to show promise in reducing the recovery time for patients with COVID-19. This quantity represented Gilead’s then full production capacity for July and 90% of its capacity for August and September. Similar deals are evident around access to proposed vaccines for COVID-19, and such deals are only likely to increase. These attempts to secure preferential access to medicines and vaccines, so-called vaccine/treatment nationalism, jeopardise supplies of life-saving treatments and vaccines available elsewhere, and jeopardise global equitable distribution of such vaccines/treatments more generally. Much of the focus to date has been on States’ role in negotiating such deals. However, such developments also demonstrate the power patent holders have in controlling access to life-saving healthcare, determining who obtains access first and at what price. This article argues that the extent of control currently given to patent holders for COVID-19 must be questioned. This article demonstrates that patents have significant implications for healthcare acting as private governance tools over patented inventions. It is only by greater probing of patent holders’ role in delivering access to medicines, diagnostics and vaccines for COVID-19 that equitable global equitable access can be achieved.
- right to healthcare
- distributive justice
This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.https://bmj.com/coronavirus/usage
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
Contributors AM is the sole author of this paper.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests The author is a member of Access to Medicines Ireland (AMI).
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement There are no data in this work.
Read the full text or download the PDF:
Other content recommended for you
- Analysis of the institutional landscape and proliferation of proposals for global vaccine equity for COVID-19: too many cooks or too many recipes?
- Intellectual property waiver for covid-19 vaccines will advance global health equity
- Overriding drug and medical technology patents for pandemic recovery: a legitimate move for high-income countries, too
- Global access to COVID-19 vaccines: a scoping review of factors that may influence equitable access for low and middle-income countries
- Decolonising human rights: how intellectual property laws result in unequal access to the COVID-19 vaccine
- COVID-19 vaccines pricing policy options for low-income and middle- income countries
- The COVID-19 vaccine patent: a right without rationale
- Remdesivir: US purchase of world stocks sparks new “hunger games,” warn observers
- Threat of compulsory licences could increase access to essential medicines
- What’s yours is ours: waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines