Mankind has come long way from apothecaries and paved its way to the modern drugs and vaccines. Through extensive research led by various renowned scholars the Pharmaceutical industry was established. If the doctors are god, then the ichor is infused by the pharmaceutical industry. Over the period of time the health sector was segregated into private and public health. The privatization of drugs was fueled by the legalization of the intellectual property. This was the beginning of the intellectual property rights support and services which boosted the researchers across the globe. The intellectual property protection refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.
Intellectual property is protected in law by, for example, patents, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.
The IP rights over a particular product or service gives its inventor a monopoly to decide how or whether the invention can be used by others for a specified period of time. Research and development of a single drug, vaccine or diagnostic kit often entails high expenditures. The companies are able to recover these expenditures by wielding exclusivity over the sales, manufacturing and licensing of these inventions by guarding them with IP rights and filing patents. This monopolization for allows the companies to extract high prices for their patented drugs or vaccines for a specific period of time which wouldn’t be possible in the free market. This acts as incentive and motivates inventions, which in turn make life easy and help the public. It is rightly said that a little competition is healthy when it is the public reaping the rewards as the companies race against each other to create or find new products and services for the public. The cure due to many deadly diseases have been found over a period of time due to this monopolistic incentivized system. Improved life expectancy, decreased infant mortality rates are few examples that signify this. The pharmaceutical industry has always had a trail of the intellectual property rights or patents on its back. Whether the drugs or vaccines should be patented or not have been debate since the beginning. Health activists have been raising the concern about application of IP rights over drugs and vaccines. They condemn the privatization of the health sector. Earlier it was the incentives or motivation that had companies trying to surpass each other and capitalizing on the market share. For general medicine this system would have worked as incentives has to be provided for such inventions where the cost is not only higher but the failure rates also land a significant blow. Although recent times have wiped the mirror to show a different image of nationwide suffering of mankind under the Covid-19 pandemic in the absence of cure. As the wildfire of the coronavirus engulfs the countries it has ignited another fire in the commercialized pharmaceutical companies to find the cure and monopolize enormous benefits.
Experts are believing the race to find the cure against the coronavirus has itself become the biggest hurdle in the path. The lack of cooperation by locking up information and exercising control of the life-saving drugs and technologies like testing-kits. These have become hindrance in the clinical trials and studies of the coronavirus, vaccines, drugs and diagnostic kits. One of the most effective antiviral against the Covid-19, Remesdivir is under patent protection owned by an American pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences Inc. This way we are progressing towards a scenario where the companies are able to find a vaccine through the clinical trials or some technology to combat the coronavirus. In this likely scenario the innovations will be monopolized by the suppliers through patents and without any intervention the public shall suffer under the high prices over the Covid-19 pandemic.
The second scenario is where we acknowledge that this system is not beneficial in the face of the coronavirus outbreak and look for alternatives. The Pharmaceutical companies should stop merely being profit-seeking organizations instead they have to wisely understand the gravity of the situation and be inspired to take their cue from Jonas Edward Salk who found the vaccine against the deadly polio virus and made it freely available to the public immediately without any patents.
A system of global networks can be established where medical professionals can monitor the emerging strains of contagious viruses and the information derived can be then updated on shared database among different nations.
The governments can pool their resources and cooperatively establish a prize system for invention of the cure against the coronavirus which can act as an incentive instead of the IP system which could limit the production and distribution of the cure by monopoly wielding company. The snail-paced driven nationalism economic approach can be avoided to search for an efficient solution. The companies can collaborate to form patent pools to share knowledge of potential treatments and coordinate clinical trials such as Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) which was established by the United Nations World Health Organization in 2010. The arrangement of Patent Pooling allows the participants to license their patent rights to each other or some third parties.
The thought is instead of the monopoly-driven system establishing a one based on Transparency, cooperation and free-flow of knowledge.