[Ip-health] Cable: US Government collaboration with drug companies to lobby the Finnish Parliament on drug pricing legislation

Jamie Love james.love at keionline.org
Tue Sep 6 05:26:13 PDT 2011


This July 9, 2008 cable concerns the collaboration between the US
government and the pharmaceutical industry to lobby Finland on the
pricing of pharmaceutical drugs. The cable was written by Michael A
Butler, then the Deputy Chief of Mission in Helsinki, and is worth a
read.  Among other things, the cable says :

*  Finland did not have product patents for pharmaceutical drugs until 1995.
*  Butler says that "Despite Embassy and industry efforts, the Finnish
cabinet voted unanimously June 25 to approve a reference pricing
scheme for pharmaceuticals."
*  The Department of state says that reference pricing "undermines the
value of patent protection for medicines created and manufactured by
U.S. and other pharmaceutical companies."
*  Butler promises that "Embassy will engage key parliamentary figures
. . . to urge that the government develop a revised proposal that . .
. will maintain the level of intellectual property protection that
pharmaceutical companies have previously enjoyed in Finland and
continue to enjoy elsewhere in the European Union."

The cable further reveals that the US Mission was deeply involved in
earlier disputes about the Finnish reimbursement status of particular
drugs, and on related legislation and policy issues. For example,
Butler writes:

"After much Industry and Embassy lobbying, in 2006, the Finnish
government established criteria in Section 57(c) of its Medicines Act
that excluded pharmaceutical products from generic reimbursement if
they were protected by an analogus process patent in Finland and
enjoyed valid patent protection in at least five other countries in
the European Union.

But this was just a start. Butler then describes a more aggressive effort:

¶4. Beginning late last year, Econoff and Commercial Officer
began working closely with the U.S. pharmaceutical company
representatives here in Finland as well as with the local trade
association Pharma Industry Finland (PIF) and its director, former
Finance Minister Suvi-Anne Siimes to devise a strategy to head off the
cancellation of 57(c). Since January 2008 the Embassy has raised this
at the highest level of Finnish government, including with the Prime
Minister but also with virtually every other minister in the entire
government. Our strategy, carefully coordinated with industry and
Washington, has focused on underscoring that Finland's knowledge-based
economy has attracted much r&d investment, including health-related
project funds from the USG. A small IPR deficiency would undermine
Finland's deserved reputation for innovation, a blow that was surely
not worth the short-term gains from savings. Industry reinforced this
message during the visit of Alex Azar, Eli Lilly's Senior VP for
Corporate Affairs (and a former Deputy Secretary of HHS) and through
intensive lobbying by PIF and Siimes. Siimes has also reached out to
the German, French and Swiss Embassies whose companies also stand to
suffer under the new arrangement. USTR Ambassador Schwab and Secretary
Gutierrez have written their Finnish counterparts on this issue and it
has been raised with the Finnish Embassy in Washington and during the
visits of high-level Finnish government officials.

I am not sure how transparent the US government lobbying of the
Finnish parliament is to the Finnish people.


James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
http://www.keionline.org, +1.202.332.2670, US Mobile: +1.202.361.3040,
Geneva Mobile: +41.76.413.6584, efax: +1.888.245.3140.

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