May 24, 2018

Incentivize innovation and intellectual property

Similar to the WHO’s troubling actions on access to medicine, in January the WHO Executive Board (EB) revisited the Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (GSPOA), discussing a report from an unaccountable expert panel which included recommendations that would damage intellectual property rights.

The existing GSPOA was negotiated in 2008 by member states after significant time, energy, and compromise and reflects an effective balance of public health initiatives that promote innovation. However, this panel of unaccountable experts recommended a broad range of updates to the GSPOA that contradict the original framework. At the January WHO EB meeting, the United States and other members voiced concern with the recommendations, particularly with several policies that run counter to the original agreement and would undermine domestic regulations that incentivize innovation and patient access.

In the United States, this could have dramatic consequences, as many of these recommendations would seriously undermine our nation’s most innovative companies and their intellectual property. Were they enacted, the United States would be placed in the uncomfortable position of defending American businesses from the WHO, an organization of which it is the majority funder.

Thankfully, the WHO EB limited the implementation of this plan to only those recommendations in the original agreement. However, the WHO continues to draft an implementation plan that could contain unintended or potentially covert actions that would have similar, detrimental effects.

At the WHA this week, the United States and like-minded members must monitor efforts by the WHO and other member states to prevent the reinsertion of those problematic recommendations and to keep review efforts solidly in line with past member state direction already reflected in the existing GSPOA.