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Government urged to stop fat cats from preventing public access to a coronavirus cure

CAMPAIGNERS and patients demanded the government make concrete commitments on access to Covid-19 treatments today, after a report warned that profiteers could prevent Britain obtaining potential vaccines.

BBC Newsnight reported that fair access to a cure could be stymied by a number of issues — including Britain's own role in slowing negotiations around pharmaceutical monopolies ahead of a crucial World Health Organisation (WHO) meeting on Monday.

In response, campaigners urged the government to impose conditions on Britain’s funding policies to ensure that all publicly funded Covid-19 vaccines and treatments are patent-free. 

This means that licences must be non-exclusive, royalty free, transparent and worldwide, they said.

The government claims it has committed £544 million to the research and development of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, yet the fund lacks conditions to safeguard access and affordability to ensure they reach all who need it, especially the most vulnerable.

Ruling out pharmaceutical monopolies would prevent corporations profiteering and price-gouging, campaigners said — and will be necessary to enable mass production at the scale required by global demand.

It will also enable other researchers to build on the knowledge and technologies that arise from publicly-funded research, to speed up progress towards finding a vaccine.

Global Justice Now campaigner Heidi Chow said: “Pharmaceutical monopolies prevent patient access to essential medicines at the best of times but in the current pandemic, public health must come before profiteering.”

Just Treatment lead organiser Diarmaid McDonald said: “With the world facing an unprecedented health crisis it would be totally unacceptable for drug companies to take taxpayer-funded research into tools to fight Covid-19 and use it to turn monopoly profits at the expense of patients’ health.”

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