Excerpted From: Ruchita Jain, A Trip to Inequity: How the Trips Agreement Hinders Access to Needed Covid-19 Therapeutics, 2023 Boston College Intellectual Property & Technology Forum 1 (June 1, 2023) (146 Footnotes) (Full Document)


RuchitaJainAs of March 10, 2023, a staggering 69.7% of the global population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In total, 13.32 billion doses have been administered globally. Nevertheless, in least developed countries (LDCs)--despite being home to fourteen percent of the world's population--only 1.2% of people are vaccinated.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, lower income nations were burdened with existing political, humanitarian, and economic crises, which have only been further aggravated by the pandemic. Because 35.1% of the populations in LDCs are facing extreme poverty, their governments do not have the resources to combat the pandemic. Accordingly, LDCs spend less money on combatting the pandemic than developing and developed countries. Aside from healthcare, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted other aspects of life. Many LDCs remain without electricity, internet, or computers, with millions lacking access to education.

Additionally, access to diagnostic kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and treatments such as vaccines and medicines is critical to ending the pandemic. This Article argues that international intellectual property regulations, as created under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), are inadequate to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Part I presents the relevant components of the TRIPS Agreement. Part II discusses global perspectives on the proposed India-South Africa waiver to forego intellectual property protections for COVID-19 therapeutics. Part III argues that the WTO should amend the compulsory licensing system to encourage utilization of compulsory licensing for national emergencies, as well as align the TRIPS Agreement with international human rights law.

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage throughout the world, disproportionately impacting developing countries. Under the WTO, the TRIPS Agreement serves as a forum for facilitating international trade. Compulsory licensing is one part of the agreement that allows nations to import patented pharmaceuticals for national emergencies. In practice, the current compulsory licensing system is flawed and ineffective. In order to help vaccinate all people around the world against the COVID-19 virus, the TRIPS Agreement needs to be amended to require all WTO member nations to adopt the compulsory licensing system. Additionally, the TRIPS Agreement must be reworded to create a more efficient compulsory licensing system for licensee countries to manufacture and import medicinal products, one that is in line with international human rights standards.

J.D. Candidate, Boston College Law School (expected 2025) B.S., Biomedical Engineering, Boston University (2021).