The possible moves are meant to tackle the chronic shortages of medicines that have dogged the bloc for years and have become more serious since the COVID-19 pandemic and associated trade disruption and drug export bans.
The European Union Commission wants faster procedures during crises to produce generic versions of drugs in EU states without the consent of patent holders, an EU document says.
So-called compulsory licensing is allowed under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules in emergencies as a waiver of normal regulations and could be applied during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Commission sees the need to ensure that effective systems for issuing compulsory licenses are in place, to be used as a means of last resort and a safety net, when all other efforts to make IP (intellectual property) available have failed,” the document published on Wednesday said
Ironically, the proposal is part of an EU action plan on intellectual property that is mostly aimed at strengthening the protection of EU companies’ patents against foreign actors.
In the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers and activists had urged the EU to use the WTO waiver to gain access to potential vaccines and drugs against the new coronavirus, which have mostly been developed outside the 27-nation bloc.
The EU executive has so far refused to invoke the waiver and has struck multibillion-euro deals with drug makers to secure COVID-19 shots and therapeutics.