Europe’s Choice: The people or Big Pharma
This week the European Parliament has a simple, yet critical, decision to make: defend people’s health and lives or side with Big Pharma and their astronomical profits. The Covid-19 pandemic is by far the worst health crisis in recent history, leaving no corner of the world untouched. Yet the EU is still incapable of taking the decision the world so urgently needs: lift intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines, diagnostics and treatments.
While countries in both the global North and South continue to battle with new mutations of the virus, the broken system of patents and monopolies has created nine new billionaires with a combined net wealth of €15.8 billion, more than enough to fully vaccinate the entire population of all low-income countries. So while on one hand, millions of people have no chance of getting a vaccine until 2023, on the other, Big Pharma and its investors have hit the jackpot and are determined to not let go of this money making machine.
Since the onset of the pandemic, The Left in the European Parliament has been denouncing the monopoly rights granted to pharmaceutical corporations that are impeding the timely and sufficient accessibility of life saving medicines and vaccines. The Left has systematically called upon EU institutions and member states to support the proposal put forward by India and South Africa in the WTO for a waiver of the agreement on Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Thanks to a trailblazing mobilisation of citizens across Europe, the European Parliament approved in May an amendment by the Left calling on the European Commission to support the TRIPS Waiver.
Now, in the same week of the TRIPS Council meeting in Geneva, MEPs are finally ready to vote a resolution on the issue. Unfortunately, due to the unflinching blockade of right wing and liberal groups it was not possible to even mention the artificial scarcity of vaccines generated by Intellectual Property Rights and Big Pharma greed.
The Greens and S&D have joined the Left’s efforts in supporting the TRIPS Waiver, the three political groups tabled several amendments asking the Commission to enter into text-based negotiations at the TRIPS Council. The European Union is increasingly isolated and it is now one of the few political forces in the world that is still blocking the waiver of patents.
The European Parliament has the unique opportunity to make things right: the Commission must drop its naïve faith in Intellectual Property Rights and endorse the exceptional legal measures that match the times we are living in.