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HHS Steps Up to Share Medical Technology with the World

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that the United States will offer yet-unspecified medical technologies linked to COVID tests, treatments and vaccines to WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), for licensing through the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP). In 2010, the U.S. government provided the first patent license to the then-newly formed MPP for an HIV drug co-invented by the United States. That license helped galvanize pharmaceutical company participation in the pool, contributing to expanded treatment access in low- and middle-income countries.

Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, issued the following statement:

“HHS is stepping up to share medical technology with the world.

“Early in the pandemic, WHO and many developing countries put forward C-TAP as a vehicle for sharing medical technology, so that researchers and manufacturers could help make available to people everywhere tests, treatment and vaccine technology, and ultimately, improve on those medical tools. The world’s people have traveled a brutally hard path since, characterized by extreme shortages and a global vaccine apartheid that has contributed to countless deaths.

“HHS took action today to help catalyze WHO’s vision of a more equitable future by offering publicly-owned technologies from NIH, the world’s premier biomedical research institution.

“The immediate medical value of today’s announcement will depend on which NIH technologies are licensed, which have yet to be announced. NIH and NIH-supported research have been critical to the development of leading medical advances including the world’s most effective COVID vaccine, NIH-Moderna. But many NIH-owned technologies are early stage or comprise only part of a final medical product. HHS has not indicated intent to require pharmaceutical firms to license technology, which would be necessary to facilitate new production of today’s vaccines.

“Today’s announcement is not a substitute for fully funding the global COVID response. We are heartened to see the White House finally has asked Congress to further fund the global fight this morning, but dismayed that the $5 billion requested falls short of the minimum $17 billion needed.

“However, HHS’s announcement is a turn toward sharing not only doses, but knowledge, which is the difference between charity and justice. It is a trajectory which if pursued with seriousness of purpose can improve resilience to future pandemics and bring a measure of justice to a terribly unjust time.

“The U.S. government is developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine, with hopes that it will prove effective against multiple variants. Today’s announcement forges a path for sharing this publicly-owned technology with humanity, as well.

“We commend HHS and encourage the U.S. government to commit its full resources to this path.”