WHO & Costa Rica Tout COVID-19 “Pooling Initiative” for Medication Access: Based on UN’s Medicines Patent Pool

WHO & Costa Rica Tout COVID-19 “Pooling Initiative” for Medication Access Based on UN’s Medicines Patent Pool

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) met with Costa Rica and Chile representatives to introduce a technology pooling initiative set up to ensure seamless access to COVID-19 health products for all. What is this technology pooling initiative and how will it help countries such as Costa Rica and other nations? 

What was the setting of the recent announcement?

Back on May 15, Carlos Alvarado Quesada of Costa Rica and Sebastian Pinera of Chile joined WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to announce progress on this technology platform that is purported to lift access barriers to effective vaccines, medicines and other health products currently used against COVID-19.

Who first got this initiative going?

Costa Rica. They first proposed the idea during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and now “several countries are backing the proposal.”

What is the basis of the proposal?

According to President Quesada, the effort involves member state participants including stakeholders from academia, companies, research institutions and agencies to voluntarily come together—driven by “social responsibility”  to promote “more global nonexclusive voluntary licensing.”

What is WHO’s Director-General Position?

Dr. Tedros stated, “We need to unleash the full power of science, without caveats or restrictions, to deliver innovations that are scalable, usable, and benefit everyone, everywhere, at the same time.” He continued, “Traditional market models will not deliver at the scale needed to cover the entire globe. Solidarity within and between countries and the private sector is essential if we are to overcome these difficult times.”

TrialSite News interprets this to mean that these groups are looking outside of normal biopharmaceutical market norms for access to drugs. Details are limited, although it is shared that the underlying “pool” is the Medicines Patent Pool (see below).

What does the “Platform” do?

According to WHO press release, the platform pools data, knowledge and intellectual property for existing or new COVID-19 health products to deliver ‘global public goods’ for all people and all countries. This platform will somehow share science and data and hence support participating companies to access information they need to produce the technologies, hence scaling up availability worldwide: and, of course, the premise here is that costs will decrease and hence access increase.

What is the Pool built on?

According to one report, the pool is built on the Medicines Patent Pool, an existing UN mechanism funded by Unitaid, that pools voluntarily released patents for essential medicines and then licenses the patients to generics manufacturers.

What is the MPP?

Founded in 2010 by the UN, the MPP aims to lower prices of HIV, TB and hepatitis C medicines and facilitate the development of more affordable treatments via voluntary licensing and patent pooling. The organization is based in Geneva, Switzerland. The UN announced a five-year MPP strategy in 2018

Who are key Funders of MPP

The UN and Unitaid.

Who is a lead official for MPP?

Marie Paule Kieny 

When will the platform launch?

WHO reports that both them and Costa Rica will launch the platform on May 29, 2020. Then WHO will publish a “Solidarity Call to Action” to elicit other nation’s support. WHO believes they will need the support of all WHO members.