The importance of intellectual property in future pandemic preparedness: MJA Letter to the Editor

7 November 2023: Medicines Australia CEO, Liz de Somer, has joined the General Director of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), Thomas Cueni, to refute calls for an intellectual property waiver on pharmaceuticals.

In response to an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia (2023; 219: 46-48), Mr Cueni and Ms de Somer penned a letter to the editor highlighting the critical role of the intellectual property (IP) framework in enabling companies to work together to develop vaccines during COVID.

“As we address the equity challenge, we must not lose sight of the innovation delivered in response to COVID‐19, with pharmaceutical companies producing billions of safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics at a speed very few thought possible,” they wrote.

“This was facilitated by a strong innovation ecosystem, which provides a framework to manage the risks and cost involved in pursuing new medicines and vaccines.”

“Of the 23 mRNA vaccines that went to clinical trials, only two were successful. The intellectual property (IP) framework is core to this ecosystem.”

Ms de Somer and Mr Cueni argue that rather than address the root causes of inequitable access, an IP waiver would undermine the very system that delivered billions of safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics against COVID‐19, and which will be central to our response to any future pandemics.

“Contrary to acting as a barrier to equitable roll out, IP enabled companies to partner on a voluntary basis. The latest data show that over two‐thirds of the 374 manufacturing and supply chain announcements for COVID‐19 vaccines have involved a collaboration — voluntary licensing partnerships, technology transfers and contract manufacturing agreements — between licensors and licensees, and of the 84 active voluntary licensing.”

“Instead, we must focus on the multilateral and regional policies needed, including regulatory harmonisation, supply chain and health care system strengthening, and the removal of trade barriers.”

The letter has been published this week in the latest edition of MJA. View article at


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