It's Time For An 'Open Vaccine Manufacture Policy', With Royalties Payable To Innovating Firms: Gadkari

by Arun Kumar Das - May 19, 2021 10:23 AM +05:30 IST
It's Time For An 'Open Vaccine Manufacture Policy', With Royalties Payable To Innovating Firms: GadkariUnion Minister Nitin Gadkari. (Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • The Road Transport and Highways Minister said he has flagged the need to liberalise the patent regime for vaccines and life saving medicines in such a humanitarian crisis with officials in the World Health Organisation.

Pitching for large-scale vaccine production, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has suggested that more pharma companies be allowed to make the Covid-19 vaccine in the country during the pandemic.

Addressing Vice-Chancellors of universities in India virtually, Gadkari said India’s health sector was facing a deep crisis and that it needs to import raw material for making medicines.

The Road Transport and Highways Minister said he has flagged the need to liberalise the patent regime for vaccines and life saving medicines in such a humanitarian crisis with officials in the World Health Organisation.

“We are not asking them to do service. If production starts at 10-12 centres, there will be no shortage of life saving drugs and vaccines. If they have surplus production, they can export. How can we allow the current practice to continue and see people dying? We will also discuss this with the Prime Minister,” Gadkari said.

Recently, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had written to the Prime Minister, saying the Centre should share the vaccine formula of the two manufacturers with other capable pharmaceutical companies to scale up production in the country.

"If the demand of vaccines is more than its supply, then it creates a problem. So, instead of one company, 10 more companies should be allowed to make vaccines by paying 10 per cent royalty to the original patent holder of the vaccine," Gadkari said.

There are two vaccine makers in the country currently — Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India — which are manufacturing Covaxin and Covishield, respectively.

These two firms can be given royalty from the profits of other companies for the use of their original formulas, Kejriwal had said.

Only three vaccines have so far been approved to be sold in India — Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V.

Sputnik V has been approved to be imported from Russia by Dr Reddy's Laboratories, but is yet to be widely available in the country.

Advocating for more pharma companies to manufacture vaccines and other life-saving drugs in case of any health crisis, Gadkari said that there was a need to have a global policy to allow this by paying 10 per cent royalty to the original patent holder of the vaccines.

He said while all should hope for the best, there is a need to “prepare for the worst”.

The minister said, “Anywhere anyone dying because of not getting oxygen is painful. We are working to make all districts of India become self-reliant for medical oxygen. We should try to remain positive and self-confident during the pandemic.”

He further said that India's health sector is facing a deep crisis and that it needs to import raw material for making medicines.

Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at akdas2005@gmail.com.


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