FTA backs Senate bill to lower price of medicine

THE multisectoral Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) backs Senator Manuel Roxas’ efforts to revise the provisions of the Intellectual Property Code.

Former Senator Wigberto E. Tañada and lead convenor of FTA said, “The bill of Sen. Roxas will enable a level playing field in the local pharmaceutical industry such that generic equivalents of patented drugs can be easily brought into the market and provide lower-priced equivalents that are within the reach of poor Filipinos.”

Moreover, there is a need to closely reexamine the country’s laws on intellectual property rights specifically on patents and trademarks, Tañada added.

“The present Intellectual Property Code or RA 8293 contains provisions that make it difficult for local drug manufacturers to enter the market. Local drug manufacturers are deprived of policy tools in order to lower the price of medicines like securing compulsory licenses from research-based multinational companies and having parallel importation of cheaper drugs from other countries without being threatened with damages for infringing on the patents held by big pharmaceutical companies,” Tañada said.

Through parallel importation, patented medicines can be purchased from the cheapest source, rather than from the manufacturer. Compulsory licensing on the other hand will allow Philippine government to order a local firm to produce a drug and pay a negotiated royalty to the patent holder.

According to Tañada, “Both parallel importation and compulsory licensing are permitted under the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Doha declaration on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and public health to ensure that every individual will have access to affordable and quality medicines and yet we are not maximizing these flexibilities here in the Philippines.”

“RA 8293 makes it difficult for small companies to do research on drugs whose patents are about to expire in order to commercialize the generic equivalents of such drugs at or right after the expiration of patents of the patented drugs. RA 8293 really needs to be amended,” Tañada reiterated.

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