International organisations call on UK government to prevent Big Pharma profiteering from COVID-19

UK urged to guarantee that any COVID-19 medicines or technologies created with public funds are available to all, patent-free


STOPAIDS and Missing Medicines Coalition members have joined a wide group of organisations and academics in urging the UK government to ensure that any COVID-19 vaccines developed with UK taxpayers’ money are produced ‘patent-free’ to prevent Big Pharma corporations profiteering from them.

The open letter is signed by more than 20 organisations including STOPAIDS, Global Justice Now, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign, Oxfam GB and Save the Children UK.

The letter commends the government’s £250 million-plus research funding for a COVID-19 vaccine, but warns that without safeguards Big Pharma could monopolise access to any resulting drugs, setting a price unaffordably high, and preventing billions of people from receiving it.

The letter calls on the UK government to guarantee equitable access to any new drug by imposing strict public interest conditions on all UK funding, as well as supporting a proposal from the President of Costa Rica for a ‘global patent pool’. This would allow all technologies designed for the detection, prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19 to be openly available, making it impossible for any one company or country to monopolise them.

The Netherlands, in addition to the WHO, the Medicines Patent Pool and the multilateral organisation UNITAID, have already publicly shown support for the ‘global patent pool’ proposal. There’s also growing UK cross-party and public support for this proposal. In only a few days, over four thousand people have already written to Matt Hancock’s team asking the government for the UK’s support for this initiative. .

The signing organisations and academics also call on the UK government to use its powers to override patents on any technologies that are potentially useful for tackling COVID-19, a step already being considered by governments including Germany, Chile and Ecuador.

This call to action builds on the momentum from how many UK parliamentarians have been calling for a COVID-19 vaccine and other health technologies to be open to all. Last weekend the All Party Parliamentary Group on Vaccines, alongside 130 parliamentarians from all main political parties, helped amplify civil society’s demands by writing to Boris Johnson’s team.

Please contact James ( to get involved with STOPAIDS and the Missing Medicines Coalition’s work on the response to COVID-19. You can take action now by signing onto and sharing this petition that urges the government to make any Covid-19 vaccine affordable for all.

Tabitha Ha, STOPAIDS Advocacy Manager said:
“To effectively tackle COVID-19, the UK needs to work together across countries and take firm action to prioritize public health over corporate profiteering. We urge the UK government to lead the world by supporting these proposals that have strong public and parliamentary support. By taking action now, it will help speed up research and ensure that everyone will be able to access the diagnostics, vaccines and medicines that come through the pipeline.”

Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now said:
“COVID-19 is a global problem. Everyone in the world needs to be able to benefit from a vaccine when it’s developed, otherwise we will not contain this disease and it will recur. Sadly, the current pharmaceutical system is not fit for purpose, and unless governments take action there’s every chance that the drugs we develop will not be affordable to people across the world. Today, we’re telling the UK government to put strict conditions on its research funding, ensuring that when a COVID-19 vaccine is produced, it is available to all. We cannot allow the profits from this vaccine to line the pockets of Big Pharma’s shareholders while billions of people are unable to benefit from it.”

Vickie Hawkins, Executive Director of MSF UK:
“The UK is putting millions of pounds of public money into global efforts to finding a vaccine for COVID-19. This money cannot be handed to pharmaceutical companies with no strings attached. Conditions must be added to these funds to ensure that there are no patents or profiteering on any future COVID-19 vaccine. 

“We know from our past experiences all over the world what it means not to have right medical tools to save people’s lives. Any successful vaccine resulting from public funding must not be limited to commercial interests and has to be made available to all during this pandemic. We have to stop putting the economic interests of pharmaceutical companies above people’s health. This needs to start now.”


Full signatories are:

  • Global Justice Now
  • Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign and MSF UK
  • Oxfam
  • Save the Children UK
  • Health Poverty Action
  • Universities Allied for Essential Medicines
  • TranspariMED
  • We Own It
  • Just Treatment
  • Transparency International Health Initiative
  • Primary Care International
  • Frontline AIDS
  • Equality Trust
  • Youth Stop AIDS
  • Salamander Trust
  • People’s Health Movement UK
  • Medact Students for Global Health
  • ACT UP London
  • PrEPster
  • Professor Francesco Checchi, Professor of Epidemiology & International Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Dr. Andrew Hill, Senior Visiting Research Fellow, University of Liverpool
  • Dr. Mohga Kamal-Yanni MPhil. MBE, Global Health and Access to Medicines Consultant