[Ip-health] Matthew Rimmer in SBS News: Comment: Julia Gillard, Big Pharma, patent law and public health

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Sun May 17 22:12:27 PDT 2020

Matthew Rimmer's comment in SBS News was published in 2013:

On 14 May 2020, Wellcome announced the following:


Julia Gillard, the former Prime Minister of Australia, has been appointed
as the next Chair of Wellcome. She will will succeed Eliza
Manningham-Buller, who is stepping down from the role in April 2021.

The first woman to serve as Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Prime
Minister (2007-2013), Julia was central to the successful management of
Australia’s economy following the global financial crisis. She delivered
nation-changing policies, including the reform of education, emissions
trading, and the provision and sustainability of healthcare.

Julia serves as the Chair of Global Partnership for Education, a leading
organisation dedicated to expanding education access and quality worldwide,
and Beyond Blue, Australia’s leading mental health awareness body.

"It really is a dream come true to have the opportunity to chair Wellcome.
I will relish supporting and speaking up for scientific research into key
health challenges. I look forward to working with all those in the Wellcome
family, including the Board, the staff who are led by the remarkable Jeremy
Farrar, the research community and all those focused on the health of
humanity. The current Chair, Baroness Manningham-Buller, continues to
provide superb leadership to the Board, and I know that I will have big
shoes to fill."

Julia Gillard

On Mon, May 18, 2020 at 6:49 AM Thiru Balasubramaniam <thiru at keionline.org>

> https://www.sbs.com.au/news/comment-julia-gillard-big-pharma-patent-law-and-public-health
> Comment: Julia Gillard, Big Pharma, patent law and public health
> It takes a lot of bravery for governments to stand up to big business, and
> the Gillard government has shown a lot of guts during its term, writes
> Matthew Rimmer from Australian National University.
> UPDATED 03/09/2013
> By Matthew Rimmer, Australian National University
> It takes a lot of bravery for governments to stand up to big business. But
> the Gillard government has shown a lot of guts during its tenure.
> It stood up to Big Tobacco in the battle over plain packaging of tobacco
> products and has defended individuals and families affected by asbestos. It
> took on Big Oil in its Clean Energy Future reforms and stood up to the
> resource barons with the mining tax.
> The government is now considering Big Pharma – the pharmaceutical industry
> and their patents – and has launched several inquiries into patent law and
> pharmaceutical drugs.
> The evils of evergreening
> One of Julia Gillard's finest speeches in the Australian Parliament was on
> the topic of dodgy drug patents. She took the Howard government to task for
> allowing patent owners to engage in the nefarious practice of
> “evergreening” – extending the life of patents beyond their natural term by
> making minor changes.
> The context for the speech on August 4 2004 was a debate over the
> Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement.
> In October 2012, the Australian government announced an inquiry into
> pharmaceutical drug patents. The Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and
> Innovation Mark Dreyfus QC observed, “In certain circumstances,
> pharmaceutical patents can be extended by up to five years beyond the
> normal patent term. These provisions were introduced back in 1998, and are
> due for review.”
> An expert panel will consider a number of matters relating to patent law,
> the pharmaceutical industry, health care and competition.
> Medicines Australia, which represents big brand-name pharmaceutical drug
> companies, has demanded direct patent term extensions. Its chief executive,
> Brendan Shaw said, “Given it takes as long as three years to get a new
> medicine listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and rejection rates
> by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee are increasing, it's
> timely to look at whether patent terms are long enough.”
> In fact, brand-name pharmaceutical companies are alarmed about the expiry
> of patents on blockbuster drugs. Such companies have been demanding direct
> and indirect patent extensions to obtain some final windfall benefits from
> these medicines.
> But such special pleading is unjustified by either patent policy or
> empirical evidence. Patent term extensions – whether they take the form of
> direct term extensions, or indirect evergreening – undermine the
> fundamental objectives and purposes of patent law.
> As Justice Michael Kirby observed in the case on reflux drug Losec, patent
> law “should avoid creating fail-safe opportunities for unwarranted
> extensions of monopoly protection that are not clearly sustained by law.”
> Inquiry into compulsory licensing
> Compulsory licensing is a public interest mechanism recognised under
> international law, which allows for the use of a patent without the
> permission of the patent owner, subject to procedural constraints and
> adequate remuneration.
> India – the world's leading supplier of generic medicines – has weathered
> challenges to its patent regime from Big Pharma.
> Thailand has engaged in compulsory licensing for essential medicines, as
> has Malaysia and Indonesia – much to the indignation of patent owners. By
> contrast, Australia lacks the effective mechanism of compulsory licensing
> to allow for access to patents for the greater good of public health.
> The Productivity Commission is conducting an inquiry into compulsory
> licensing under patent law. The inquiry's purpose is to assess, advise and
> recommend on the impacts and mechanisms of compulsory licensing invoked by
> the Patent Act's public interest and anti-competitive safeguard. The
> Commission has released an issues paper on the topic of patent law and
> compulsory licensing.
> Taking a maximalist stance, Medicines Australia has opposed modernising
> Australia's compulsory licensing regime. The lobby group maintains, “The
> fact that no compulsory licenses have ever been granted in Australia for
> pharmaceutical products proves that there are other, much more effective,
> means available to all members of the Australian community to resolve
> patent related disputes.”
> Somewhat dourly, AusBiotech has complained about Australia's neighbours,
> such as India and Thailand, engaging in compulsory licensing.
> By contrast, the Department of Health and Ageing has recommended
> “simplifying the use of the Crown Use and Compulsory Licensing provisions”.
> The department insists that such mechanisms are “an important safeguard for
> governments to be able to ensure access to a patented technology in the
> event that this is required to provide equitable access to affordable
> healthcare”.
> And the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network argues that public
> interest mechanisms – such as compulsory licensing – should not be
> curtailed by trade agreements. There's some concern that the Trans-Pacific
> Partnership may curtail access to essential medicines.
> Exporting essential medicines
> It has taken nearly ten years for the Australian Government to prepare
> legislation – Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2012 (Cth) – to
> implement the WTO General Council Decision 2003 that allows for the export
> of essential medicines.
> So far, very few countries have implemented an effective regime to allow
> for the export of essential medicines. Indeed, there's only been one
> instance of the WTO General Council Decision 2003 being used – where the
> Canadian generic manufacturer Apotex relied upon the export mechanism to
> send drugs to Rwanda.
> Indeed, it would be fair to say that, over the course of the last decade,
> various Australian governments have been slow to respond to the matter of
> patent law and access to essential medicines.
> After long debate in 2011, Trade Minister Craig Emerson and the
> then-Innovation Minister Kim Carr promised better access for medicines for
> countries in need. Emerson said, “Pandemics and other serious health issues
> remain a terrible problem in many of the world's poorest countries.
> Anything Australia reasonably can do to alleviate the suffering in these
> countries should be done and we are delighted to be able to help through
> this initiative.”
> Australia's proposed regime – contained in the Intellectual Property Laws
> Amendment Bill 2012 (Cth) – is quite narrow and rigid in its design. The
> draft legislation seems overly eager to appease brand-name pharmaceutical
> drug owners. The drafters should revise the scheme so there's an effective
> mechanism for the export of essential medicines in Australia.
> The key test is whether the regime has a positive health impact. There's a
> need to enable generic manufacturers to export medicines and other
> humanitarian inventions to developing countries to address public health
> concerns, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases. An
> effective compulsory licensing regime should be a part of a larger strategy
> in respect to intellectual property and global health research and
> development.
> Dr Matthew Rimmer is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, working
> on Intellectual Property and Climate Change. He is an associate professor
> at the ANU College of Law, an associate director of the Australian Centre
> for Intellectual Property in Agriculture (ACIPA), and a member of the ANU
> Climate Change Institute. Dr Matthew Rimmer receives funding as an
> Australian Research Council Future Fellow working on "Intellectual Property
> and Climate Change: Inventing Clean Technologies" and a chief investigator
> in an Australian Research Council Discovery Project, “Promoting Plant
> Innovation in Australia”.
> --
> Thiru Balasubramaniam
> Geneva Representative
> Knowledge Ecology International
> 41 22 791 6727
> thiru at keionline.org

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