The World Trade Organization will decide on Thursday whether to approve an Indian and South African proposal that would allow countries to disregard intellectual-property protections on Covid vaccines and therapeutics. Proponents claim the move would increase patients’ access to vaccines, especially in the developing world, by enabling companies to mass-manufacture generic copies of those drugs. In reality, suspending intellectual-property rights would make things much worse. The proposal is cynical—designed to benefit India’s and South Africa’s domestic drug industries at the expense of patients around the world.
India is the world’s largest manufacturer of generic drugs, and South Africa is another big producer. They lament that the U.S. and Europe have blocked intellectual-property rights suspension, even though a greater number of WTO member countries are in favor.
I’ve heard this line of attack before, and it is fraught with danger.