[Ip-health] Bloomberg: Drugs for Indian Poor Spark Pfizer Anger at Lost Patents
thiru at keionline.org
Tue Apr 2 01:54:13 PDT 2013
In this piece, Chris Israel (former U.S. coordinator for international intellectual property enforcement under George W. Bush and now a lobbyist) repeats the industry canard that compulsory licenses are only permitted during public health emergencies.
Drugs for Indian Poor Spark Pfizer Anger at Lost Patents
By Eva von Schaper - Mar 27, 2013 8:01 PM GMT+0100
Those steps are needed to put modern medicines into the hands of Indians, according to aid groups and doctors. Western drugmakers including New York-based Pfizer Inc. (PFE) say the country, which has a $30 billion drug market that’s growing 13 percent a year, is abusing international law and allowing domestic companies to profit from products discovered at Big Pharma’s expense.
The dispute illustrates how emerging markets are turning out be less lucrative than drugmakers expected. London-based GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) has warned that so-called compulsory licensing of patented products may hurt profit growth. One advocacy group now is pushing stricken Western countries such as Greece to follow India’s lead, raising the prospect of further pressure on drug prices.
“From the perspective of companies, I can’t think of anything more incredible than to have the government expropriate your intellectual property and have domestic companies exploit it,” said Chris Israel, the U.S. coordinator for international intellectual property enforcement under President George W. Bush who now works for the American Continental Group Inc. lobbying firm in Washington.
Neither the U.S. nor the European Union have sought help from the WTO to stop compulsory licenses. The EU recognizes India’s right to issue compulsory licenses, Helene Banner, a spokeswoman for EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, said in an e-mailed statement. American Continental’s Israel said such licenses are intended for use in health emergencies such as pandemics, not because prices are too high.
Pharmaceutical company executives say patent-sharing bodies known as patent pools and voluntary licenses can make drugs available to the poor. Patents won’t stop medicines from reaching those who need them, Paul Herrling, who heads Novartis’s Institute for Tropical Diseases in Singapore, said in an interview.
“We have a very clear policy not to make the patent a barrier,” Herrling said. The patent situation has led Novartis to re-allocate investments to other emerging markets such as China, Herrling said.
Roy Waldron, Pfizer’s chief intellectual property counsel, called on the U.S. government this month to work harder to protect patents in India.
“We believe that Indian generic companies now see any innovative product as fair game for compulsory license,” Waldron said in testimony March 13 to the House Ways and Means Committee’s subcommittee on trade. Pfizer didn’t respond to a request for further comment.
“We are concerned about the current situation in India with respect to the recent decisions by the government that concern not only compulsory licensing, but also the patent status for certain products of some of our competitors,” Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) Chief Executive Officer John Lechleiter told reporters at a March 26 briefing in Beijing.
“This is something we’ll continue to try to address with individual governments” and through multinational organizations, said Lechleiter, who’s chairman of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a U.S. lobbying group.
Roche last year said it would rebrand and cut the price of two patented cancer drugs in India, MabThera and Herceptin. Still, India’s Department of Pharmaceuticals in January started the process of issuing compulsory licenses for three cancer treatments including Herceptin, according to the newspaper Indian Express. A Roche spokesman declined to comment on the reports.
India’s efforts may embolden other countries. China last year overhauled parts of its intellectual property law to allow domestic companies to make low-cost versions of medicines under patent protection. In September, the Indonesian government expanded access to HIV drugs and a hepatitis B treatment.
A non-profit group called Essential Inventions Inc. this month asked the Greek government to use compulsory licenses to supply cancer and HIV drugs to its citizens, David Hammerstein, a member of the group’s board, said in a telephone interview.
“Hundreds of people in Greece are dying because they are not getting the medicines, tens of thousands can’t afford the medicines,” he said. Hammerstein said his group is also thinking of asking the Spanish government to import generics under a compulsory license. He expects a response from Greek officials in a couple of weeks.
“There is a danger it will pick up steam,” said IMS’s Kleinrock. “Companies have to take it seriously.”
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