China Moves to Patent Cure for Novel Coronavirus

The problem with many patents is that they restrict access to medicines.

Remdesivir, an experimental drug by American pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences Inc., is currently being used in human trials in China to treat the novel coronavirus. According to a report by Time, China views remdesivir as one of the most promising candidates to fight the novel coronavirus, which is why it is now seeking to patent the drug. Current human trials in China using remdesivir showed "highly effective" signs of treating the novel coronavirus. 

The Wuhan Institute of Virology posted a statement on its website, announcing its application for a patent on the potential coronavirus cure on January 21, 2020. According to the Chinese researchers at the Institute, remdesivir has been recently recognized as a promising antiviral drug against a wide array of RNA viruses, including SARS and MERS-CoV5, and is currently under clinical development for the treatment of Ebola virus infection.

Meanwhile, chloroquine, an 80-year-old malaria drug, also showed promise in clinical trials for the treatment of the novel coronavirus. According to Time, China already has access to chloroquine and is capable of manufacturing it. It now seeks to gain similar access to remdesivir.

Patents Restrict Access to Medicines

In an article published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it was reported that patents restrict access to medicines, especially in poor or developing countries.

“Do drug patents kill?” asks Michael Schull, author of the paper. “If they do, the risk is felt overwhelmingly by the poor.”

“Those prepared to defend an unfettered pharmaceutical market must acknowledge that the only freedom it offers these people is the freedom to die without access to essential medicines,” he concludes.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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