This ‘Access Denied’ series explores a systemic lack of transparency within government decision making between pharmaceutical companies and their relations with governments. Through legal and investigative research, the series uncovers how this opacity prevented public accountability and good governance which, we argue, contributed to the gross inequity we have seen in access to COVID-19 health technologies.

This report investigates how the UK government prioritised trade secret protection over transparency during the public procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, and how pharmaceutical companies utilised trade secrecy strategies to prevent generic manufacturers from producing vaccines.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK Government made extensive reference to trade secret provisions as a way of restricting transparency during public procurement procedures. Pharmaceutical companies relied on trade secret protection to prevent other companies accessing manufacturing methods of COVID-19 vaccines and other commercially valuable information.

This report provides a critical analysis of these issues, concluding that greater transparency is required in the public procurement process – especially in a time of emergency – to ensure a fair and equitable allocation of resources, and to guarantee accountability on the part of both the UK Government and the pharmaceutical industry.

To read or download the report please click on the link below:

Access Denied: Role of trade secrets in preventing global equitable access to COVID-19 tools

We would like to thank The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for making this research possible.