Thursday, 13 September 2007

Members of European Parliament complain over Commission stance on cheap medicines

MEPs look set to complain to Peter Mandelson, the European trade commissioner, over his efforts to curtail Thailand from boosting the supply of affordable medicines by routinely circumventing patents held by drug firms. Mandelson recently wrote to several Thai ministers after Bangkok decided to overrule patents on three medicines by issuing compulsory licenses. Mandelson expressed concern over reports that Bangkok “may be taking a new approach to access to medicines” by stating that “if drug companies wish to do business in Thailand, they should offer their drugs for no more than 5% above” the cost of generic versions of the products in question. According to Mandelson, “this approach would be detrimental to the patent system and so to innovation and the development of new medicines” and “it risks forcing more drug companies to abandon their patents.”

Many MEPs have taken exception to Mandelson’s letter as they believe he should not be seeking to exert pressure over developing countries which overrule drug patents in order to address public health needs. Helmuth Markov, the German MEP who chairs the Parliament’s committee on international trade, has confirmed to the on-line journal Intellectual Property Watch that he intends to send a written complaint to Mandelson. – (EuroStep News)

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