May 13, 2010
"India and Brazil launched a trade dispute against the European Union and the Netherlands on Wednesday, saying their seizures of generic drugs were hurting healthcare in poor countries and disrupting international trade," Reuters reports. "India said the repeated seizures were based on allegations of the infringement of intellectual property rights in the country of transit, even though the generic drugs in question were legal in their countries of origin and destination," according to the news service.
EU officials maintain the aim of the seizures is to identify counterfeit medicines, not to deny people in developing countries access to drugs, Reuters writes. The EU's trade spokesman John Clancy said the European Commission has been in discussions with India and will clarify rules about medicines in transit through legislation. "The EU remains fully committed to ensuring that people in the world's poorest countries can access affordable medicines," Clancy said in a statement.
On Wednesday, India's ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ujal Singh Bhatia, expressed concerns during a news conference that "the seizures were part of a concerted effort by rich nations to stiffen the current intellectual property regime and claw back special treatment for developing countries," according to the news service.
The article describes the circumstances under which Dutch customs seized drugs sent from India to Brazil, "including treatments for blood pressure, cardiological conditions, HIV/AIDS, schizophrenia and dementia" in 2008 and 2009.
Brazil's WTO ambassador, Roberto Azevedo "said the case was not limited to Brazil and India. ... The risk of seizures meant generics producers in developing countries were avoiding shipping goods via Europe, driving up transport costs and so undermining the purpose of using cheap generics, he said," Reuters writes.
Brazil and India have formally requested "consultations with the EU and Netherlands on the issue, the first formal step in a WTO dispute ... They now have 60 days to try and resolve it, otherwise Brazil and India can ask the WTO to set up a panel of experts to rule whether the European actions breach international trade rules" (Lynn, 5/12).
Financial Times Reports on "Reinvention" of Large Pharmaceutical Companies
In related news, the Financial Times examines how large pharmaceutical companies are being forced "to rethink [their] business model[s]" as the expiration of patents on several big "blockbuster" drugs draws near.
The article examines the diversification strategies of large pharmaceutical companies, including efforts to "expand geographically, especially into emerging markets[,] ... increase sales of products other than patented prescription medicines[, and] ... experiment with greater flexibility in pricing in different countries and with ways to ensure drugs provide value for money." The piece includes comments by the heads of large pharmaceutical companies and pharmaceutical analysts (Jack, 5/12).