Saturday, December 01, 2007

Poor Nations Ask "Why Should Be Share H5N1 Samples, When Rich Nations Won't?"

Forget The People, Says US, Patents Must Be Protected

In a perfect world, world pharmaceutical giants would put aside the profit sheet in the face of a coming pandemic we've been repeatedly told could wipe out as many as a few hundred million people and work together, with the poorer nations, to create the kinds of vaccines that may help to halt the spread of a highly pathogenic H5N1 virus.

After all, who wants to loose that many potential future customers for larger profits in the interrum?

But instead we have an absurd situation where countries like Indonesia are now forced to virtually hold their H5N1 samples hostage to ensure that whatever vaccines result from such samples will be made available to its people, in the event of a pandemic, for reasonable prices.

From Xinhua :
Richer nations and drugmakers refused to share their bird flu virus samples which upset developing countries that wanted to develop cheap vaccines by the virus samples, media reported Monday.

Developing states like Indonesia -- which with 91 of the 206 human bird flu deaths since 2003 is the hardest hit country -- want guarantees from richer nations and drugmakers that they will have access to cheap vaccines if they share samples.

"We must have equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of viruses through a fair, transparent and equitable mechanism. It is the moral thing to do," said Siti Fadillah Supari, Health Minister of Indonesia.

The WHO agreed last May to revamp its 50-year-old system for sharing flu virus samples with researchers and drug firms. It had wanted its 191 member states to adopt an agreement by May but divisions remain.

John Lange, U.S. special representative for avian and pandemic influenza, ruled out any automatic reward for sharing.

Research and development of vaccines was "very risky, time-consuming and extremely expensive" and it was critical to protect patents to ensure their continued development, he said.

You would think there would be nothing more expensive in the history of mankind than a bird flu pandemic that kills more people than the 1918 'Spanish Flu' wipeout.

Indonesia is also well aware that if they hand over H5N1 samples, and a vaccine is patented from such samples, they may find they are not allowed to develop their own vaccines from the same, now patented, viral strains.

You can understand Indonesia's reluctance.

What is more important to protect? People, or patents?

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