On 29th March 2023, Prof Aisling McMahon was invited to speak at an interdisciplinary conference on “In Light of the Evidence: Economic, Legal, Social, and Political Perspectives on Public Policy” organised by the Department of Economics, Maynooth University. This conference brought together social scientists to share their understandings, provide evidence and converse across disciplines to build a stronger interdisciplinary basis for public policy. Professor McMahon was invited to discuss her research on intellectual property rights and access to healthcare, at a session of the conference which examined vaccine development and access.
Professor Aisling McMahon’s paper was entitled “Patents, Pandemics and Public Health Access to Vaccines: Lessons from COVID-19 on the Bioethics Gap” This paper revisited the role of patents as private governance tools in the COVID-19 context highlighting that patents and other intellectual property rights were a key factor that enabled rightsholders to dictate who gained access to COVID-19 vaccines first, and on what terms. A vast inequity in access to COVID-19 vaccines between high and low/middle income countries resulted, with vaccines allocated based on private agreements rather than global public health need. Aisling’s paper highlighted the disconnect between IP systems and broader systems for – and discussions of – public healthcare allocation, and bioethical issues that arise. The paper argues that such issues require urgent reconsideration to better align the system with public health needs for COVID-19, and for future pandemics.
Professor McMahon is a Professor of Law, School of Law and Criminology, Maynooth University whose research specialises in health and intellectual property law. She is the Principal Investigator of the PatentsInHumans project.
You can find out more about the PatentsInHumans project by watching this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFVRHpzzuQM