Open letter: Prepare NOW for equitable access to COVID-19 treatments in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Organizations working on health and rights in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region, have called on governments to prepare now, to ensure fast, equitable access to any COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments or vaccines that are developed.

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Currently, a number of existing drugs are being tested in clinical trials around the world, in the hope of demonstrating effectiveness in treating COVID-19.

Organizations within EECA are concerned that when a treatment is identified, the region is not yet suitably prepared to ensure fast, equitable access to everyone in need.

Some of the drugs being trialled are under patent protection in the region until 2031. Although research has proven that all the key drugs can be made very affordably, the patent protections in place may delay or prevent access to treatment – unless countries prepare to remove intellectual property (IP) barriers now.

In the open letter (Russian) to governments, the organizations highlight initiatives from other countries that have already acted to limit patent rights – and urges EECA governments to follow suit.

EECA governments should follow the examples of other countries and ensure there aren’t delays or barriers to access when a treatment for COVID-19 is found.

For example, the German government has recently passed the ‘Epidemic Protection Act’ which includes several amendments to existing laws, one of which may affect patents granted on pharmaceuticals or medical devices, so that IP barriers do not prevent access. Similar initiatives have also been taken in Canada, Israel, Chile, and Ecuador.

The letter asks governments within the EECA region:

  • To assess the current national legislation in relation to intellectual property and access to medicines. Identify the opportunities within existing laws for the government to act, to make medicines widely available, for the benefit of public health.
  • If necessary, make urgent amendments to provide the government and/or its authorized agencies (including Ministries of Health) with the right to decide on the use of COVID-19 inventions for the benefit of the public health.

Acting promptly now will mean countries are prepared to roll out treatment quickly when effective medicines for COVID-19 are identified. 

It will also help ensure that governments can respond quickly if there is a disruption to supplies of essential medicines for other viruses and diseases.

Read in Russian here.

The signing organizations are:

List of organizations:

  1. Association Partnership Network (Partnerskaya Set), Kyrgyz Republic 
  2. Belarusian Public Association Positive Movement (Positivnoe Dvizhenie) 
  3. Charitable Organization All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV (100% Life)
  4. Charitable Foundation Source of Hope (Istochnik Nadezhdy), Chelyabinsk, Russia
  5. Charitable Foundation for Assistance to People Affected by HIV and Other Socially Significant Diseases Vector of Life (Vektor Zhizny), Russia
  6. Charitable Organization Svitanok Club, Ukraine
  7. All-Ukrainian Association of People with Drug Addiction WAVE (VOLNA) 
  8. Patient Control Movement, Russia
  9. Eurasian Women`s Network on AIDS (EWNA)
  10. TB People Network
  11. Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity (ECOM)
  12. Community Initiative Group PULS, Moldova
  13. Non-Profit Public Organization Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA)
  14. Non-Profit Partnership PharmActa. Quality and Standards
  15. Public Association Support for People Living with HIV “Kuat”, Kazakhstan
  16. Public Organization Initiativa Pozitiva, Moldova
  17. Public Foundation AGEP’C (ANTIHEPATIT S), Republic of Kazakhstan 
  18. Public Foundation Answer, Republic of Kazakhstan
  19. Society Association HIV.LV, Latvia
  20. Association to fight AIDS, Hepatitis C and Tuberculosis (LFM+)
  21. Public Organization Peer to Peer Plus (Ravniy Ravnomu Plyus)
  22. Oryol Regional Public Organization to Fight AIDS Phoenix Plus
  23. Association of Legal Entities Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV, Kazakhstan
  24. Regional Public Organization AIDS, Statistics, Health, Russia 
  25. Regional Public Foundation for Assistance to Various Categories of the Population of the Sverdlovsk Region New Life (Novaya Zhizn), Russia
  26. Republican Public Association People PLUS, Belarus
  27. Treatment Preparedness Coalition, Russia
  28. Social Non-Government Organization Armenian Network of Positive People, Armenia
  29. Union for HIV prevention and Harm Reduction
  30. Charitable Foundation Positive Women, Ukraine