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The company should publicly commit to human rights in relation to product development and marketing, by adopting an official human rights policy statement recognising the right to the highest attainable standard of health. The company should endeavour to integrate human rights into its strategies, policies, programmes, projects, and activities.
The company should also have a publicly available global access plan for their Covid-19 product, based on human rights standards, with measurable targets and lines of accountability.
AstraZeneca’s website states: “Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on low and middle-income countries, is one example of our equitable access strategy in action.”
In its response to our questionnaire, the company mentions its collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to enhance equitable access to Covid-19 medical products, and the fact that two thirds of its vaccines have gone to low- and middle-income countries, as well as 250 million doses delivered through COVAX. This is not published in a dedicated global access plan on their website.
AstraZeneca states that it is guided by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the UN Global Compact (UNGC).
“We commit to the Guiding Principles to respect human rights by acting with due diligence to avoid infringing on human rights and to address negative impacts. “We have ensured that the UNGC and its ten Principles have become part of our strategy, culture and day-to-day operations, and they will remain vitally important in the years ahead” — Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO in a recommitment letter to the UNGC.
In its response to our questionnaire, AstraZeneca mentions that it is a member of Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI), and supports its principles for Responsible Supply Chain Management for ethics, labour, health and safety, environment, and related management systems. Finally, AstraZeneca also conducts human rights due diligence to assess the human rights risks of its activities.
The company should constructively engage with international initiatives for the equitable distribution of vaccines and therapeutics, such as the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) or the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), and the ACT Accelerator (COVAX). The company should also publicly commit to not enforcing the exclusive rights of Covid-19 related patents, and enter into non-exclusive, transparent licensing agreements for its Covid-19 products with other companies.
When asked about AZ’s support of MPP or C-TAP at an IFPMA forum in May, CEO Pascal Soirot stated that ‘’intellectual property is a fundamental part of our industry and if you don’t protect IP, then essentially, there is no incentive for anybody to innovate.’’ AZ has not demonstrated any factual support to a responsible licensing mechanism.
Their response to our questionnaire had a similar message: Vaccines are highly specialized, complex biological products which are subject to rigorous testing and quality standards and processes during their development. Our approach has been to share our technology and know-how with experienced vaccine manufacturing organizations in countries where production can be set up or ramped up at scale. We believe this offers a more effective way of scaling up production and supporting innovation, and our model has enabled us to supply more than 2.5 billion doses to 170 countries around the world in just over a year since the first international approvals. To do this we enabled technology transfer to more than 20 different supply partners, including four sublicense agreements. Our sub-licensing agreement with Serum Institute of India (SII) supports the supply to India and to low and lower-middle income countries. Each of our sub-licensing agreements is thought out in detail to ensure it supports the best strategy for broad and equitable access. Waiving IP rights completely would not solve the challenge of rapidly scaling up manufacturing to meet global demand. Rate-limiting factors include the time it takes to transfer the technical knowledge, skills and expertise to produce the vaccine, as well as the lack of specialized producers that can quickly set up the industrial capacity to make a safe and effective vaccine at scale.
See also Statnews article on this.
In its response to our questionnaire, AstraZeneca mentions that it has enabled technology transfer to over 20 supply partners across 15 countries, but this does not equate to a commitment not to enforce patents overall.
AstraZeneca was the first pharmaceutical company to sign an agreement with COVAX in June 2020. It has agreements with the Serum Institute of India (SII), CEPI and GAVI to supply 400m doses to 92 AMCs through COVAX.
AstraZeneca states in its response to our questionnaire: “As of 14 January 2022, over 257 million AZ/SII doses have been delivered through COVAX to 130 countries. Over 204 million (79.36 %) of these doses have been delivered to LMIC/LICs. We put broad and equitable access at the heart of our response to the pandemic with approximately two thirds of our global supply of 2.5bn doses going to low and lower middle income countries. We have facilitated the donation of over 200 million vaccines worldwide.”
AstraZeneca has technology transfer agreements with over 20 different supply partners in over 15 countries, including 4 sublicensing agreements (FioCruz, SK Bioscience, R-Pharm, Siam Biosicence, Serum Institute of India, CEPI/GAVI)
The company should engage in efforts to further equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines/therapeutics, by equitably distributing its supplies globally, devising fair pricing strategies, and making the active ingredient for its product available to other manufacturers. The company should also engage in full technology transfer to other manufacturers, including the necessary transfer of skills, legal components, knowledge and intellectual property. Where applicable, the company should agree to waive rights in regulatory test data, and refrain from enforcing TRIPS+ measures.
[Only applies to therapeutics]