[Ip-health] Bloomberg: Drug Patent Threat Opens Division on How to Fight Back

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Jan 31 02:28:09 PST 2014


Drug Patent Threat Opens Division on How to Fight Back
By Makiko Kitamura  Jan 31, 2014 1:00 AM GMT+0100


The "excessive insistence" on intellectual property protection at that time
was "the global low point" in the effort to spread free trade, said Lawrence
Summers <http://topics.bloomberg.com/lawrence-summers/>, president emeritus
of Harvard University <http://topics.bloomberg.com/harvard-university/> and
a former U.S. treasury secretary, who was chairman of the Lancet medical
journal's commission on investing in health.

Drugmakers say that protection of intellectual property is needed to help
fund development of new products and limit the export of generics to
countries where patents remain valid. The companies, though, disagree about
the best response to the South African government's plan.

After the trade group considered a public relations
spend $450,000 to oppose the government proposal, Novo Nordisk A/S
(NOVOB)<http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/NOVOB:DC> quit
the organization citing a disagreement on the campaign, "which we felt did
not serve our or the industry's interests," said Shelley Harris, a company

Roche Holding AG (ROG) <http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/ROG:VX> is
considering following Novo's lead and withdrawing from the industry group,
said Daniel O'Day, who leads the company's pharmaceutical unit.


Merck & Co. (MRK) <http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/MRK:US>'s MSD Southern &
East Africa unit was involved in soliciting proposals from consulting firms
and gaining support for the selected campaign.

In an e-mail <http://keionline.org/sites/default/files/merck-email.pdf>
the proposed campaign, Michael Azrak, managing director for the MSD unit,
urged other companies in the association to "please discuss and gain
agreement from your above country/global headquarters on our planned

"We can't afford to wait until February to get this campaign moving," Azrak
wrote in the e-mail, which was obtained and distributed by Doctors Without
Borders. Kelley Dougherty, a spokeswoman for Whitehouse
New Jersey-based Merck, confirmed that Azrak had written the e-mail.

Pfizer Inc. (PFE) <http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/PFE:US>, based in
New York<http://topics.bloomberg.com/new-york/>,
said it stands behind IPASA's statement on the matter. Bristol-Myers Squibb
Co., also based in New York, declined to comment.


Novartis (NOVN) <http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/NOVN:VX>, like Roche based
in Basel, said it wasn't involved with the drafting of the campaign
document and didn't support it. The company wants to discuss with the
government how to improve access to treatments while keeping South Africa
"an attractive environment for innovation and investment," the Swiss
drugmaker said.

Drugmakers also are trying to head off further compulsory licensing in
other countries. One effort is to include a provision in the Trans-Pacific
Partnership free trade agreement that would make policy in some
participating countries more like that of the U.S. The nations drafting the
partnership are the U.S., Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile,
Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The proposed provision would strengthen patent protections for brand-name
drugs and prevent generic-drug makers from selling products before patents
expire, according to patent specialists who reviewed a draft document
released by the WikiLeaks <http://wikileaks.org/tpp/> anti-secrecy group.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the U.S. drug trade
group, is helping companies push for adoption of the provision. If adopted,
it would effectively block generic competition and keep medicines
unaffordable for large populations in the member countries, according to
Doctors Without Borders, an independent humanitarian group. The agreement
would roll back countries' flexibility in dealing with public-health crises
through such means as compulsory licensing as stated in the Doha
2001, according to the nonprofit organization.

"The U.S. government is being led by the pharmaceutical companies to change
the global norms on protection of intellectual property to obtain longer
and stronger monopolies on their products," said Judit Ruis
manager of the Access Campaign in New York at Doctors Without Borders.

U.S. President Barack Obama <http://topics.bloomberg.com/barack-obama/> is
seeking authority to fast-track the trade agreement and smooth
congressional passage.

PhRMA says bolstering patent protection can help foster economic growth and
medical innovation.


While drugmakers have lowered prices and invested in the health
infrastructure of the poorest countries, 75 percent of people living in
poverty are in middle-income emerging
a population that is being increasingly neglected, Sanjuan said. Aggressive
patent protection in those countries doesn't help, she said.

"My hope is that there will be a continued evolution of pricing regimes so
that a proper balance can be found" between incentives for research and
improving access to medicines, Summers said.

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