IFPMA Covid-19 Günlük Bülteni – 20 Nisan

20.04.2020

Top news:

  • Instead of a lengthy statement, the G20 health ministers shared a brief statement outlining their national experiences, necessary actions to improve preparedness and the systemic weaknesses exposed by the pandemic. There was no mention of Washington’s contentious decision to halt WHO’s funding.
  • UN’s major agencies have urged international donors to step up funding to meet the $2billion target the UN requested for its emergency Covid-19 response in March.  Other joint announcements include: WTO/ WHO calling upon governments to implement policy measures promote their rapid dissemination of R&D to ensure equitable access through initiatives such as sharing of relevant intellectual property rights, increasing manufacturing capacity.  ITU/WHO on IT and COVID-19, WHO/UNICEF joint statement on immunization. And G77 voices its support for the WHO.
  • World Bank pandemic bonds to pay $133m to poorest virus-hit nations.
  • A new partnership, initiated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership, was launched to develop a collaborative framework for prioritizing vaccine and drug candidates, streamlining clinical trials, coordinating regulatory processes
  • New data sharing platform launched by the EU Commission.
  • Novartis to initiate new 450-person study to determine if hydroxychloroquine can effectively treat Covid-19.

PRICING, ACCESS & IP

  • Fortune: Big Pharma has the chance to come to the world’s rescue. Pharma’s potential success in developing treatments, vaccines and diagnostics for COVID-19 won’t put the pricing controversies to bed. As they strive for novel therapies and medical tools, pharma companies will have to balance the need to fund innovative projects and still satisfy a public (and perhaps regulators) demanding low- or no-cost drugs and devices to combat this plague. It is also still to be determined what role health insurers and governments may play in all of this.
  • Pink Sheet (Paywall): As Calls For Patent Sharing To Fight Pandemic Intensify, Manufacturing May Be Bigger Issue. Scientists and lawyers ask companies to temporarily license their IP for free, as others advocate compulsory licenses; real issue may be the ability to make a COVID-19 treatment or vaccine widely available.
  • The Guardian: Coronavirus knows no international borders, neither must its eventual cure. Opinion by Jeremy Farrar. Mr Farrar argues that we must pull together and implement a global solution to Covid-19. More will be needed to ensure that no matter where they are developed, all tests, treatments and vaccines are available to everyone in the world who needs them and at an affordable price.

GLOBAL RESPONSE

  • China embassy: G77, China voice support for WHO in COVID-19 fight: statement The statement includes a call on the international community “to maintain and, where possible, increase their support for the WHO, which, by the mandate given to it by member states, has a critical and central role to play in supporting developing countries to confront a crisis of epic scale that threatens to erase the gains made over the past decades.”
  • RFI: Coronavirus exposes ‘weaknesses’ in health systems: G20. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed “systemic weaknesses” in global health systems, the G20 said Monday, but there was no mention of Washington’s contentious decision to halt WHO’s funding. The Saudi G20 secretariat shared a brief statement outlining their national experiences, necessary actions to improve preparedness and discussing systemic weaknesses exposed by the pandemic. The failure to agree on a lengthy statement will underline the extent to which the pandemic has become a theatre for a wider global disagreement between the US and China in which other nation states are finding themselves increasingly forced to take sides.
  • The Guardian: UN agencies issue urgent coronavirus appeal after $2bn request falls well short. The heads of all the UN’s major agencies have issued a graphic warning in an open letter of the risk of coronavirus to the world’s most vulnerable countries after disclosing that international donors had pledged around a quarter of the $2bn the UN requested for its emergency Covid-19 response in March.
  • Financial Times: World Bank pandemic bonds to pay $133m to poorest virus-hit nations. The World Bank’s “pandemic bonds” will pay out $132.5m to some of the poorest nations affected by coronavirus. After long-running concerns about whether triggers for the bonds were too stringent to provide timely funds to countries in need, it was determined on Friday that the final criterion required to activate payment of the bonds — an exponential growth rate in coronavirus infections in countries poor enough to be eligible for funds — had been met. 

GLOBAL ECONOMIC & SOCIAL IMPACT

  • Financial Times: EU coronavirus recovery fund plans face political bear traps. EU plans for a trillion-euro economic recovery fund risk becoming snarled in the political wrangling over its forthcoming seven-year budget, underscoring the bloc’s challenges in seeking a route out of the coronavirus-induced slump.
  • Reuters: Coronavirus threatens to trigger new round of global food crisis: China official. The global coronavirus pandemic threatens to cause a huge shock to international food trade and trigger a new food crisis, a top agriculture official in China said on Monday. The comments came as coronavirus outbreaks roiled global agriculture supply chains and upended trade, and after some countries restricted exports of main grains and increased procurement for reserves.

VACCINE/ TREATMENT DEVELOPMENT & DONATIONS

New partnerships/ initiatives

  • NIH: NIH to launch public-private partnership to speed COVID-19 vaccine and treatment options. The National Institutes of Health and the Foundation for the NIH (FNIH) are bringing together more than a dozen leading biopharmaceutical companies, the Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. FDA and the European Medicines Agency to develop an international strategy for a coordinated research response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The planned Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership will develop a collaborative framework for prioritizing vaccine and drug candidates, streamlining clinical trials, coordinating regulatory processes and/or leveraging assets among all partners to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 and future pandemics.
  • Politico (Paywall): European coronavirus data-sharing platform launched. A data-sharing platform for scientists to publish their coronavirus research, such as DNA sequences and data from pre-clinical studies, was launched today by the European Commission. The platform is meant to make it easier for the thousands of scientists working on coronavirus to share their data and findings.

IFPMA Members

  • Stat News: Novartis steps up to study of hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19. Novartis said Monday it would conduct a 450-person study to determine if hydroxychloroquine can effectively treat Covid-19. “We felt like there was just a lot of noise out there regarding whether it would be beneficial for this population of patients that [it] could really be helpful for,” said John Tsai, the chief medical officer of Novartis.
  • Reuters: Sanofi France will make a charitable gift of 100 million euros to help tackle the coronavirus crisis in France, with the money going to hospitals, care homes and other initiatives

Others

  • Deccan Herald: Israeli scientist granted US patent for novel coronavirus vaccine design. In a major breakthrough, an Israeli scientist at the Tel Aviv University has been granted a US patent for his innovative vaccine design for the corona family of viruses, a press statement by the varsity said on Sunday.
  • Business Today: India sets up high-level task force to develop vaccine for coronavirus; to co-ordinate with global researchers. India has formed a high-level task force to research on coronavirus and develop a vaccine. The task force will also coordinate with international community on vaccine development process for coronavirus.
  • Bloomberg Businessweek: Antibody Treatments May Be the Best Hope Against the Virus Until a Vaccine. Antibody treatments won’t eliminate the need for a vaccine. They might not work on critically ill patients. And as a prophylactic, the drug would likely have to be given every couple of months. It wouldn’t be practical to treat all high-risk people with regular antibody infusions. But the treatments might help communities return to a seminormal state until a vaccine is finally available.
  • BBC News: Coronavirus: Plasma treatment to be trialled. The UK is gearing up to use the blood of coronavirus survivors to treat hospital patients ill with the disease. NHS Blood and Transplant is asking some people who recovered from Covid-19 to donate blood so they can potentially assess the therapy in trials.
  • Bloomberg: World Health Guru Says Don’t Bet on Covid-19 Vaccine. The threat of the coronavirus may linger “for the foreseeable future” because there’s no guarantee a vaccine can be developed, said David Nabarro, professor of global health at London’s Imperial College and an envoy for the World Health Organization on Covid-19.

Ethics

  • Reuters: In Russia, a black market for HIV drug to try on coronavirus. A black market has developed in Russia for Kaletra, according to sellers, HIV activists and the head of the drug’s main Russian producer. Russia’s Health Ministry recommended it as a possible treatment for COVID-19 at the end of January, but later added that its efficacy was uncertain.

DIAGNOSTICS

  • BBC News: India coronavirus: Should people pay for their own Covid-19 tests?. According to the new order, issued on 13 April, the Indian government will reimburse private labs for testing the 500 million people covered by a flagship public health insurance scheme. The rest would have to pay. But the volte-face sparked a bigger question: can India scale up testing for Covid-19 if it’s not free?

COVID-19: FOCUS ON AFRICA

  • Financial Times: Africa could take ‘a generation’ to recover from coronavirus. Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda said that without co-ordinated action and innovation, some economies on the continent could take “a generation or more” to recover from the shock of the pandemic. African countries, he said, needed international support of “$100bn and probably more” this year alone, though he said this was “a fraction of what wealthy countries are already injecting into their economies with the stroke of a pen”.
  • UN: ECA Report: COVID-19 in Africa: Protecting Lives and Economies. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in a new report on the coronavirus pandemic, says over 300,000 Africans could lose their lives due to COVID-19. This, as the pandemic continues to impact on the Continent’s struggling economies whose growth is expected to slow down from 3.2 percent to 1.8 percent in a best-case scenario, pushing close to 27 million people into extreme poverty.

WHO – Daily COVID-19 update, 20 April

Statement by Dr Tedros during media briefing, 20 April, here:

  • I also appreciate the statements of the G77 and the Non-Aligned Movement expressing their strong support for WHO.
  • As you know, the G77 – 133 countries and the Non-Aligned Movement, 120 countries. This is a big vote of confidence, and we thank NAM and we thank the G77 countries.
  • WHO is providing technical, scientific and financial support for the rollout of sero-epidemiologic surveys across the world.
  • Early data from some of these studies suggest that a relatively small percentage of the population may have been infected, even in heavily affected areas – not more than 2 to 3 percent.
  • WHO has worked with FIND, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, to identify and validate five tests that can be manufactured in large quantities.
  • Working together with the Global Fund, UNICEF and Unitaid, we have now placed orders for 30 million tests over the next four months.
  • So far, more than 100 countries have joined the Solidarity Trial to evaluate therapeutics for COVID-19, and 1200 patients have been randomized from the first 5 countries.
  • This week, we expect that more than 600 hospitals will be ready to start enrolling patients.

Statement by Dr Tedros on the G20 Health Ministers’ meeting, 19 April, here:

  • We are deeply concerned that the virus now appears to be gathering pace in countries that lack the capacity of many G20 countries to respond to it.
  • Urgent support is needed, not only to support countries to respond to COVID-19, but to ensure other essential health services continue.
  • One of the biggest challenges we face in Africa and other countries is the critical shortage of supplies, and the ability to deliver them because of weak supply chains.
  • WHO is working with International Chamber of Commerce and the B20 group of business leaders from G20 countries to increase the production and equitable distribution of these life-saving tools.
  • Today I have three requests:
    • First, we urge each of your countries to continue to fight the pandemic with determination, guided by science and evidence.
    • Second, we are looking to the G20 countries to continue to support the global response to COVID-19.
      • We will soon publish a second Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, with an estimate of the resources needed for the next phase of the response.
      • We echo President Ramaphosa’s appeal on behalf of the African Union to G20 countries to support African countries with stimulus packages and debt relief so they can focus on fighting the pandemic.
    • Third, we call on all G20 countries to work together to increase the production and equitable distribution of essential supplies, and to remove trade barriers that put health workers and their patients at risk.

ITU/WHO Joint Statement: Unleashing information technology to defeat COVID-19. The WHO, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with support from UNICEF are set to work with telecommunication companies to text people directly on their mobile phones with vital health messaging to help protect them from COVID-19. These text messages will reach billions of people that aren’t able to connect to the internet for information. 

WTO/ WHO Joint statement: Joint statement by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. While we are heartened by the remarkable research efforts and the rapid mobilization of public and private resources to develop COVID-19 health technologies, we call upon governments to implement policy measures that can further facilitate their research and development, and to promote their rapid dissemination within countries and across borders so as to ensure equitable access to those technologies. Such initiatives include targeted investment, ensuring open access to clinical test results, the sharing of relevant intellectual property rights, increasing manufacturing capacity, open and transparent procurement regimes, the elimination of tariffs on relevant health technologies, and trade facilitation measures to reduce costs and delays.

WHO EURO: Statement – Vaccination must be maintained during COVID-19 pandemic to be effective. Access to vaccines for all has transformed our societies, but it is a public good that must be maintained to be effective, even in difficult times. Our overstretched health systems cannot bear any outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

WHO/UNICEF joint statement: Maintaining routine immunization services vital during the COVID-19 pandemic. If, during these unprecedented times, local COVID-19 response measures cause temporary interruptions of routine immunization services, countries should plan to resume immunization services as quickly as possible after the situation stabilizes. Countries should be prepared to vaccinate those at higher risk and ensure everyone, including the most marginalized, will have equal access to a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.