FTA urges BFAD, PITC: Be firm vs. Pfizer

THE multisectoral Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) urges the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) and Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) to be firm in dealing with the multinational drug company, Pfizer, which filed a lawsuit against the PITC and BFAD officials.

Angelito Mendoza, labor convenor of FTA said, “Secretary Obet Pagdanganan of PITC and other concerned officials should resist any offers to settle the case. In the first place, it was Pfizer, which filed this ridiculous lawsuit based on a specious argument that the government is infringing on its patent, when, in fact, the government was merely availing of a WTO-recognized right of countries to import cheaper medicines in the interest of safeguard public health. The government should be able to tell drug multinationals such as Pfizer on how to respect the right of our people to access medicines at affordable prices.  Patent rights are not absolute nor forever.”

This concern from FTA stemmed from the previous hearing of the case last 5 April 2006 in Branch 61 of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City when Pfizer UK and Pfizer Philippines, Inc. manifested their willingness to settle the case provided certain conditions are met. What these conditions are were not disclosed during the said court hearing.

Pfizer UK and Pfizer Philippines, Inc. filed a lawsuit last March 2006 against government agencies PITC and BFAD for allegedly infringing on the patent rights of the anti-hypertensive drug Amlodipine Besylate, or Norvasc.

The infringement, or an act in violation of the monopoly rights of the patent holder, in this case the Pfizer UK and Pfizer Philippines, Inc., came from the application of the PITC before the BFAD to register and to authorize its importation of the same drug from India, whose selling price is less than one-sixth of its price here in the Philippines.

It is public knowledge that the prices of medicines in the country is one of the highest, if not the highest, at least in Asia and the Pacific because of the monopoly of the multinational drug companies in the 80-100 billion peso Philippine pharmaceutical market.

This monopoly is often sustained by the patent rights of these companies over these medicines, whose patents comprise more than 90% of the patents granted by the PITC, as against local or Filipino pharmaceutical companies.

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