The pandemic is declared finished, but the fight for access never stops

MMA consortium members from Argentina, Brazil, Thailand and EECA region, took action to secure access to molnupiravir. In Argentina, the Fundación Grupo Effecto Positivo (FGEP) filed a pre-grant opposition on patent applications for molnupinavir (AR12285A1) on 22 June 2022. In Brazil, the Associação Brasileira Interdisciplinar de AIDS (ABIA) filed two pre-grant patent oppositions on a molnupiravir patent application BR112020010581-3 on 27 April 2022, and later in on a divisional patent application BR122021012627-5 on 14 June 2022. On 14 March 2022, ITPC EECA filed an opposition at the Eurasian Patent Office on patent application EA202091005, that would impose monopoly on molnupiravir in 11 EECA countries. In Thailand, during October of 2021, the AIDS Access Foundation, along with six other civil society organizations, sent a letter to the country’s Ministry of Health to raise awareness on the over-pricing of molnupiravir (which was priced at $700 per five-day treatment course in the US,[1] but could be profitably mass-produced by generics manufacturers for an estimated price of $19.95 per treatment course[2]).

As part of this work, the MMA consortium developed three patent opposition templates for molnupiravir, which have been shared across the consortium, to facilitate preparation by civil society organizations country-level patent oppositions.

“We were successful in multiple oppositions we filed on molnupiravir patent. We keep working at local level to ensure access to adequate and affordable treatments.”, says Lorena Di Giano, Executive Director at FGEP.

“COVID-19 pandemic’s consequences in Brazil were catastrophic. We were just behind the USA in number of deaths, with thousands losing their lives every day. The previous government was responsible for spreading misinformation and recommending useless treatments. We had to prepare ourselves for the worst. We started filing several oppositions on molnupiravir patent applications through the course of several months”, reports Alan Rossi Silva, a lawyer at ABIA and Coordinator of International Affairs of the Working Group on Intellectual Property.

“It is important that governments are aware about the ways that prices could be lowered and address patent barriers. TNP+ is monitoring patent applications on molnupiravir and is also planning to remove any low-quality patent filed by Merck for this drug.”, says Chalermsak Kittitrakul, Project Manager for Access to Medicines in TNP+.

“We are trying to ensure that local generic manufacturers are able to produce molnupiravir at lower prices. The removal of regional patent barriers is crucial in that sense. This will benefit 8 countries covered by the Eurasian patent office.”, Maria Shibaeva, Treatment access specialist, ITPC EECA.

“While some of the countries are include in the MPP-Merck VL, it is quite complicated for the countries not included in the voluntary license to ensure access.”, says Othoman Mellouk, Access to Diagnostics and Medicines Lead at the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition. “Therefore, it is important to support in such countries the fight for access at national level by using TRIPS-Flexibilities”.

(Read ITPCs public statement about MPP-Merck VL here)