Doctors Without Borders defends breaking patents to combat Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil

. May 23, 2020
msf pandemic 2015 MSF protest in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Fernando Frazão/ABr

In a letter addressed to Brazil’s Congress, humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) expressed support for Bill number 1462/2020, which allows for patent flexibility during pandemics. For MSF, the bill is a vital measure needed to ensure the medical tools necessary to combat Covid-19 or any other pandemic that arises in the future.

The bill allows for the suspension of exclusive patent rights by the hold, enabling other companies to manufacture products, resulting in greater access and affordable prices. During the period, companies holding the patents will be allowed to trade and continue receiving royalties. The bill is pending in congress following an urgent request for it to be voted on.

In the letter, MSF referenced its past experiences fighting pandemics such as HIV/AIDS. Millions of lives were saved by expanding access and reducing the price of life-saving treatment through breaking patent rights. Since the beginning of the pandemic, MSF argued that drugs, tests, vaccines, and other medical tools necessary to fight Covid-19 should be made widely available, instead of restricted by patent rights and the quest for excessive profits. The World Health Organization approved a similar resolution on May 19.

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Benjamin Fogel

Benjamin Fogel is a Ph.D. candidate in Latin American History at New York University and a Contributing Editor to Jacobin Magazine.

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