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Roche CEO Schwan Joins the IPR for Pandemic Drugs

A contentious bill that would waive intellectual property rights for Pandemic drugs and vaccines has been rejected by another COVID-19 heavyweight. However, while some executives have dismissed the proposal, Roche CEO Severin Schwan believes it might result in a “catastrophe.” Patent waivers would be “counterproductive,” according to Schwan, and would not result in fixed supply shortages in the immediate future.

In reality, the waiver will stifle innovation and result in a “catastrophe” akin to East Germany’s nationalisation of the pharmaceutical industry, according to Schwan. Supporters of the bill may be hoping to gain “brownie points” with certain organisations in the short term, but the waiver will have long-term ramifications, according to Schwan.

Schwan said, “This will be harmful for my children and grandchildren when I’m not CEO anymore.” The Biden administration surprised everyone earlier this month by supporting a proposal before the World Trade Organization (WTO) that would immediately revoke patent rights for COVID-19 goods. The pharmaceutical industry, advocacy organisations, and certain countries have all been vocal in their opposition to the IP waiver.

Although removing patent rights is expected to increase drug and vaccine supplies to developing countries, critics argue that it will not solve access issues. The CEOs of the leading COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer, Moderna, and BioNTech, have all spoken out against the plan.

The shortage of raw materials is restricting vaccine development, according to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, and removing patent protections will only worsen the problem. When the United States endorsed intellectual property sharing, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said he didn’t lose a minute of sleep. Moderna has been racing to scale its mRNA manufacturing capability, which was largely non-existent prior to the Pandemic, in a similar way to Bourla’s point.

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