​'Extraordinary Circumstances': WHO, Unitaid Welcome Proposal for Drugmakers to Give Up Patents Against Coronavirus

New Delhi: The heads of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unitaid, a UN-backed group funding global health innovation, have welcomed a proposal devised by Costa Rica for companies to voluntarily pool their intellectual property for all medical interventions, including treatment, vaccines and diagnostics, according to a report in the Financial Times.

Doing so would enable governments or generic drugmakers to manufacture and sell the products at much lower prices than are currently available in the world market.

Marisol Touraine, Unitaid’s chair and a former French health minister, told the publication that “extraordinary circumstances” warranted “extraordinary solutions”.

Pharmaceutical companies have joined intellectual property pools in the past enabling treatments for HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and Hepatitis C to be extended to low-income countries at affordable prices. The proposed coronavirus pool, however, would be available to countries worldwide.

Costa Rica health minister Daniel Salas said he was hopeful the WHO would soon go ahead with the plan.

In a statement, the WHO said it was committed to equitable access, including for interventions related to Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. “We are exploring all avenues to ensure people who need it have access to effective and safe products for Covid-19,” it said.