Big Pharma May Need To Report State Deals In WHO Crisis

Under new regulations that would oversee a pandemic agreement approved by the World Health Organization, which Reuters has reviewed, pharmaceutical companies might be required to disclose prices and agreements for any medications they produce to battle future global health emergencies.

The 194 nations that make up the WHO are currently negotiating a draught agreement that would compel businesses to disclose the details of any public procurement contracts.

According to this, public financing for the creation of vaccines and cures should be more open and contain guidelines to guarantee that any resulting products are dispersed fairly globally.

The COVID-19 global health catastrophe was devastating, and the goal of the pact, also known as the pandemic treaty, is to enhance the international solution that left many of the world’s poorest nations behind.

Many of the agreements that countries signed with pharmaceutical corporations during the pandemic were kept private, leaving them with little ability to hold drug companies accountable.

According to a WHO official, member states are leading the present effort to create a new accord. The process is open and transparent, and it includes participation from other parties, including interested parties and the public, who are entitled to make submissions at public consultations, the statement reads.

The agreement is in its early stages and is likely to evolve when member states and other parties are negotiated with. The document will be presented in its entirety during a meeting on November 18 after having been distributed earlier in the week.

The pact is ambiguous regarding what would occur if companies and signatory nations did not adhere to its rules. Companies cannot be compelled to abide by the U.N. organization’s standards.  After its rapid sprint to create vaccinations and therapies that served as essential tools in containing the virus that has killed more than 6.5 million people worldwide, the pharmaceutical sector may oppose the plan.

Less than a year after the virus first appeared in China in late 2019, Pfizer and its partners BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca tested, developed, and released vaccinations. The draught is an important milestone, according to Thomas Cueni, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), but he also stressed the need to protect pharmaceutical companies’ intellectual property and not undermine their ability to innovate.

Although the document acknowledges the value of intellectual property, it also calls for improved channels for knowledge sharing so that more businesses can manufacture treatments and vaccines in times of crisis. According to Cueni, if the document were adopted as written today, it would probably hinder rather than help their shared ability to quickly create and scale up remedies and ensure fair access.

The draught document also suggests better universal health care coverage, more domestic finance for preventing and combating pandemics, and easier access for WHO to study outbreak origins, in addition to a peer-review system to evaluate nations’ pandemic preparation.

Far-reaching and courageous

The agreement, according to Lawrence Gostin, a professor of law at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., who monitors the WHO, might change the game and stop the “inexcusable” hoarding of vaccinations that was observed during COVID-19.

Actually, the text is ambitious and broad. However, the challenges are political resistance and industry backlash, he added. The People’s Vaccine Alliance’s Mohga Kammal Yanni stated that the agreement could either end the greed and injustice of COVID-19 and other illnesses, or it might bind subsequent generations to the same terrible effects.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has referred to the pact as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance international health laws. The constitution of the U.N. body gives it significant authority to negotiate treaties with other countries, but throughout its 74-year history, it has only done so once, in the shape of the 2005 tobacco treaty.

When countries decided to make the new agreement legally binding in July, despite early misgivings from Washington, negotiations on the treaty took a significant stride forward. The negotiations began in February. There is still a long road ahead before the board’s next official meeting in December. The earliest that the agreement will be put into effect is 2024.

Regarding topics like intellectual property and price transparency, a Western ambassador warned that some of the debates ahead would get uncomfortable. However, they claimed that several significant powers had a sincere desire to reach an understanding. There is a desire to investigate all subjects, even the challenging ones.