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Big Pharma did not save the day

The industry is celebrating a great PR win—but Big Pharma's iron grip on intellectual property could hinder the achievement of worldwide protection against Covid-19

By Stephen Buranyi   May 2021

In March, Pascal Soriot, the CEO of AstraZeneca, wrote an article in the Guardian promoting his company’s work providing vaccines for developing nations through the WHO’s Covax programme. “The fight against Covid-19 has shown how governments, industry, international institutions and academia can come together to achieve something remarkable.” He promised the industry was “doing all we can to make sure people around the world have access to safe, effective Covid-19 vaccines, wherever they live and regardless of income level.”

Fine words, you might think. And yet the very same week, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America—a lobbying firm that represents AstraZeneca, Pfizer and other drug giants—urged the US government to pursue legal action against any country that suspends drug patents to make coronavirus vaccines without the industry’s express approval. South Africa and India have petitioned the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to allow such generic vaccines to protect…

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