IGBA, Others Oppose Protectionist Actions Amid COVID-19

April 6, 2020

Trade groups and consumer advocates are working to fight the rising tide of protectionism generated by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. The International Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (IGBA) is calling for dedicated air and sea channels to keep pipelines of essential medicines open between borders.

Aware that travel restrictions and border controls imposed by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pose a threat to drug supply, the International Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (IGBA) is working to establish priority designations for medicines in air and sea cargo transport.

The move is among diverse attempts by private and public institutions recently to secure supplies of drugs and pharmaceuticals amid the dizzying pace of events. “The situation is constantly and rapidly changing,” said Suzette Kox, secretary general of IGBA, in an interview with The Center for Biosimilars®.

In recent days, many have spoken out against export curbs and other protectionist measures that threaten to upset the balance of international healthcare. Some actions by governments have involved instating emergency powers to bypass patent exclusivity protections where necessary.

On March 25, the Canadian legislature passed an emergency bill that would allow that country to circumvent patent laws to ensure adequate supplies that are needed to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

And White House administration trade advisor Peter Navarro recently stated publicly that the administration was planning to order federal agencies to prioritize purchasing US-made drugs and medical supplies.

IGBA Cautions About Export Restrictions

The IGBA contends that any restrictions on the export of pharmaceutical products are counterproductive. “We will work toward keeping global markets open, and our industries are focusing right now on meeting the increasing demands. We also see encouraging signs of international commitments, collaboration, and coordination to support the movement of medicines,” Kox said.

The group today called for governments gobally to establish priority designation for medicines at custom controls and for cargo and freight. The priority would include goods needed to manufacture these agents.

“There is an absolute urgency to facilitate and speed up the movement of essential products at all levels, in particular at customs control, as well as systematically reserve cargo capacity for those products in air/sea cargo, which are vital partners in delivering much-needed essential goods,” the group said in a release.


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