NEWS

Greek pharma skeptical on patent waiving

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Greek pharmaceutical firms’ executives share Germany’s skepticism as to whether waiving vaccine patents will help produce more, and cheaper, doses in a bid to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the case of Greece, local pharmaceuticals may need to invests hundreds of millions of euros and this would take a long time, most likely 12 to 16 months, they say.

Local production of coronavirus vaccines has long been a topic of discussion but it has been revived in the wake of the US decision to back waiving the patents for these specific vaccines. Germany opposes that decision, but not all European Union members share its opinion.

“At present, there is no capacity to produce such a vaccine in Greece. You must collaborate with one of the producers, who will provide you with the know-how, and make some serious, time-consuming investment,” said an industry manager. “Also, the production process is not completely described in the patents; there are corporate secrets known only to the companies,” he added.

What Greek firms could do now is get the finished product and bottle it. However, this is not a simple task; an mRNA vaccine, such as those developed by Moderna and Pfizer, has about 280 ingredients provided by 89 suppliers in 19 countries.

Theodoros Tryfon, president of the union of Greek pharmaceutical firms, told Skai Radio yesterday that building a production line from scratch would require 12-16 months.

“Even [local] vaccine producers collaborating with the patent-holding companies need six to eight months to adapt [production lines]. Greece doesn’t produce similar vaccines,” he said.