MUMBAI: Bharat Biotech will pay a royalty of 5% on net sales of its Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin to Indian Council of Medical Research, prompting concerns from public health and IP experts.
They have questioned the need for the payout, to be done on a half-yearly basis and the basis for the calculation. The pay-out reflects in the cost of the vaccine, and hence impacts affordability, they told TOI. While the Centre has revised the price to Rs 225 per dose for Covaxin for the fresh order placed in July, it is the most expensive jab in the private market at Rs 1,410.
Junior health minister Bharati Pravin Pawar told Parliament that the royalty “clause is governed by the MoU executed between the two parties (Bharat Biotech and ICMR) for the development of Covaxin”.
As per the CoWin website, when the vaccination was launched on January 16, a little over 5 crore doses of Covaxin have been administered in the overall 45 crore immunisation so far. The government had invested in pre-clinical studies for Covaxin, and Rs 35 crore was spent on its clinical trials, according to the Centre’s affidavit filed in Supreme Court in May.
“The government should also verify the investments made by Bharat Biotech. If ICMR gets a royalty of 5% on Rs 35 crore funding, can the government verify that BB invested upwards of Rs 650 crore for development of Covaxin?” Murali Neelakantan, principal lawyer at Amicus said. Amulya Nidhi of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan alleged that there appeared to be a nexus between government and company for earning profits. “Rather than giving 5% royalty to ICMR, the Centre should order technology transfer and a compulsory licence be given to not only the government-owned companies, but to all potential manufacturers.”
“The royalty should have been used instead to reduce the price of the vaccine by 5% for the citizens during the pandemic, and not as a source of revenue by a government body like ICMR, entrusted for disaster management of Covid-19,” added Rohit Jain, a doctor working on patient issues. Queries mailed by TOI to ICMR went unanswered.