How ML&P is Aiding the Covid-19 Response

The Covid-19 pandemic underlined concerns about access to medicines and vaccines. How to ensure these products would be available rapidly and equitably quickly became the central question of those looking to bring the pandemic to its swiftest possible end, and to ensure the world is better prepared when (not if) the next pandemic arises.

ML&P experts have been helping to respond with explanations of policy options for governments and support for key global initiatives that will encourage and facilitate the sharing of intellectual property, know-how, and technology related to Covid-19 countermeasures. We have also provided input on actions the world must take to prepare for future pandemic threats. See below for ML&P insight, useful tools, and important initiatives ML&P is supporting. ML&P is also updating its TRIPS Flexibilities Database to include Covid-19 related instances.


Continuing to ignore the problem of the know-how gap won’t make it go away.

The Covid-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for a variety of issues in access to medicines, one of which was finding a solution to...

Pressure from European countries related to the use of TRIPS Flexibilities 

The draft text of the World Health Organization pandemic accord reaffirms countries' rights to use to the full the flexibilities contained in the World...

The last mile: A few suggestions for the WHO Pandemic Agreement’s last two weeks of talks 

This technical briefing note is also available as a PDF here. On 16 April, the Bureau of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to draft and...

US Authorisation of Non-Voluntary Use of Patents frequently used for health technologies

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the United States prioritised the rapid development of products needed to combat the health crisis.  Rapid product development was pursued...

European Parliament’s amendments make the Regulation for EU-wide compulsory licensing difficult to use and need to be rolled back

European Parliament legislative resolution of 13 March 2024, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on compulsory...

Intervention at Intergovernmental Negotiating Body to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, 9th...

The following intervention was delivered by Ellen 't Hoen on 18 March, 2024 Download this statement as a PDF here. Thank you for the opportunity to...

It is not too late to solve the know-how problem in the WHO Pandemic Accord

Introduction One of the most important Intellectual Property (IP) problems which the Pandemic Accord negotiators need to solve is now in danger of being completely...

Medicines Law & Policy Intervention at the WHO Pandemic Accord Negotiations

This statement was delivered on 19 February at the World Health Organization in Geneva, on the occasion of the 8th Intergovernmental Negotiating Body to...

The new EU compulsory licensing regime needs to allow the export of medicines

Guest author Olga Gurgula is a Senior Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law at Brunel Law School, Brunel University London. A war-weary Ukraine critically depends on the support of...

WHO is an essential forum for debates on intellectual property and public health

Recently, Health Policy Watch reported that some European countries at the World Health Organization (WHO) Pandemic Agreement negotiations maintain that intellectual property negotiations belong...

ML&P in the News

Medicines Law & Policy experts are often present in the news but took a particularly prominent role during the pandemic, helping guide the response to COVID-19. A selection of articles from the duration of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), from 30 January 2020 to 5 May 2023.


All news, by date

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Relevant ML&P Tools

COVID-19 has renewed interest in use of flexibilities in international law that can help governments increase access to medicines for their citizens. Our set of tools below can facilitate their use. For a flow chart that can help determine which tool is relevant to a particular country’s situation, see here.

Initiatives ML&P supported during the pandemic

Below are the important COVID-19 response initiatives that ML&P helped moved forward during Covid-19.

Creation of a Covid-19 Technology Pool

Medical innovation is urgently needed to develop and produce tools to fight the pandemic; to facilitate this, the creation of a technology pool was proposed to the WHO by Costa Rica on 23 March. This mechanism would gather in one place and make available knowledge related to prevention, detection and treatment of Covid-19. It was endorsed on 27 March in an open letter to the WHO signed by nearly 100 public health organisations and experts, and since momentum has been growing.

On 3 April, the Board of the Medicines Patent Pool and UNITAID decided to expand MPP’s mandate to include health technology to support a Covid-19 response globally. And on 6 April WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he supported the proposal to create a pool and would work with Costa Rica to finalise details.

On 7 April, the Dutch Minister of Health offered to help WHO create the Covid-19 pool, and to help fund relevant research; in consultations on 3 April the Dutch Foreign Affairs Council noted that it was important to ensure developing countries could also access the data. An open pledge to in principle share Covid-19 related intellectual property was launched on 7 April. Also in April, the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vaccinations for All wrote the prime minister urging him to support the Covid-19 pool as well as take other actions to secure open innovation on Covid-19 technologies.

Effective Use of Compulsory Licences for Export

Countries that lack the manufacturing capacity to produce a particular medicine can benefit from an amendment to the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement, Article 31bis, that allows medicines under a compulsory licence to be made for export (prior to this amendment, a CL had to serve the domestic market). However, 37 high income countries have opted out of using it to import medicines.

On 7 April 2020, Knowledge Ecology International published an open letter calling on these 37 countries to opt back in. In the age of Covid-19, this is critical for several reasons. First, in a public health crisis, even high income countries will need to diversify their supply base to ensure access to all who need medical technologies as urgently as it is needed. Secondly, the manufacture of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients – what makes a medicine effective – is increasingly outsourced to India and China, even when the final medicine is made elsewhere. This means these high income countries could face challenges in their ability to make a critical component domestically, which is what Article 31bis is designed to address. Third, having more countries willing to import on a CL can contribute to economies of scale that bring down prices for medical technology; thus, even if high income countries do not need to issue such CLs or their own use, doing so can help in countries where an affordable price is necessary to be able to treat their citizens.

Useful resources on Covid-19