[Ip-health] MSF welcomes Brazil Parliamentary Committee recommendation to reform patent law

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Thu Oct 10 00:16:42 PDT 2013

MSF welcomes Brazil Parliamentary Committee recommendation to reform patent

*Parliamentary committee recommends Brazil acts to improve access to
medicines and medical innovation*

*Brasilia/Rio de Janeiro, 9 October 2013* — Brazil has joined a growing
list of middle-income countries taking action in tackling the high cost of
medicines, with the launch today of a parliamentary committee report that
recommends reforming Brazil’s patent law and introducing new models of
innovation. International medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans
Frontières (MSF) welcomed the high-level report, ‘Brazil’s Patent Reform:
innovation towards national competitiveness’, saying it should spur the
Brazilian Parliament to support legislation that would reform Brazil’s
patent law to improve access to affordable medicines.

“Brazil has historically shown leadership in promoting and defending access
to affordable medicines, and with newer medicines becoming increasingly
unaffordable, this is even more important today,” said Susana de Deus,
Executive Director of MSF Brazil.  “The patent law reform process in Brazil
can be seen as part of an international momentum where middle-income
countries are facing unaffordable prices for medicines and increasingly
taking measures to overcome the patents that price drugs out of reach.”

In April, India’s Supreme Court upheld an important public-health provision
reaffirming the country’s right to establish its own criteria to analyse
patents. Last month in South Africa, a public consultation process opened
on the government’s draft plan to improve and reform the patent law there,
which currently sees the country paying the highest prices in the region
because of abusive patenting practices. MSF welcomes and encourages such
efforts from countries, in a bid to lower the cost of medicines.

Affordable, quality generic medicines are a critical component of treatment
programs. About 80% of the HIV medicines that MSF uses are generics, and
MSF routinely relies on generic drugs to treat TB, malaria, and a wide
range of infectious diseases. The first generation of HIV drugs have come
down in price by 99 percent over the last decade, from U.S.$10,000 per
person per year in 2000 to roughly $120 today, thanks to generic production
in India, Brazil and Thailand, where these drugs were not patented.

Today, newer drugs are being patented in these countries, which pose new
challenges to the cost of treatment. For example, darunavir/ritonavir –
just two drugs needed in a four-drug cocktail for salvage treatment – is
priced at $4,752 per person per year in Brazil, while the price of the
standard first-line regimen costs $647. Given the growing number of people
in need of newer drugs, governments will need to explore strategies to
ensure sustainability of national programs. Public health-oriented patent
laws can ensure improved competition and price reductions, which can have
benefits globally upon prices and access, including for service providers
like MSF.

The report, released today by the Centre for Strategic Studies and Debates
(CEDES) at the Brazilian House of Representatives, gives strong support for
reforming the patent law in order to implement a range of public health
safeguards, in line with international trade rules, which allow countries
to enable generic competition and bring down drug prices. The reforms
include stricter rules for what deserves a patent, allowing a more robust
patent opposition system to curb frivolous patenting practices by drug
companies, and taking proactive steps to protect access to medicines,
including the right to issue government-use compulsory licences to import
or produce generic versions of patented medicines. These suggested reforms
have already been implemented in India, which has limited abuse of the
patent system by pharmaceutical companies, thereby dramatically reducing
medicine prices for people across the developing world.

“This report reaffirms Brazil’s right to implement public health safeguards
in its national laws” said Susana de Deus. “If the reforms proposed by
Brazilian legislators are approved and implemented, it can encourage other
countries to take action against the rising cost of medicines and consider
reforming their patent laws.”

The report also recommends Brazil considers new and alternative models of
medical innovation. Today’s research and development (R&D) system is
overwhelmingly dependent on patent monopolies to stimulate and finance
innovation.  This has two critical flaws: new medicines, protected by
patents, are unaffordable; and the essential health needs of patients go
unaddressed when potential commercial rewards are insufficient. By
‘delinking’ the cost of research from the final price of a product, new
incentive models, such as prizes, can promote both innovation and
affordable access to medicines, ensuring that new drugs and medical tools
for unmet health needs are developed without the high price tags attached.

“The shortcomings with today’s patent system are evident, and Brazil is
uniquely placed to play a role in changing the situation,” said Felipe
Carvalho, MSF Access Campaign Adviser in Brazil. “Brazil could use its
diplomatic clout to weigh in on ongoing intergovernmental processes at the
World Health Organization that are currently exploring alternative models
of innovation, and  harness  its technical expertise to develop, support or
finance R&D projects that could meet critical unmet health needs for
patients in Brazil and around the world.  This is the vision we are looking
for from the Brazilian government.”

- ends -

Joanna Keenan
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
P: +41 22 849 87 45
M: +41 79 203 13 02
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: twitter.com/joanna_keenan


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