Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Drug problems

Further to the ongoing saga of Brazil and drugs to treat AIDS, Brazil has decided to buy a generic version of the anti-AIDS drug Efavirenz from India rather than from the holder of the patent, the American company Merck; Merck will receive a patent royalty, although not as much as would have resulted from direct sale.

This is a "how much money" case: Brazil was offered a discounted rate of $1.10 a pill instead of the present price of $1.59, but was seeking a price of $0.65, the same price as paid by Thailand. Now Brazil will buy from India at $0.45 a pill.

See also article in Scientific American.

Of Thailand, the Bangkok Post stated:

Former US President Bill Clinton, standing next to Public Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla, has endorsed recent decisions by Thailand and Brazil to break patents held by American pharmaceutical companies.

Mr Clinton said prices charged by drug companies are "exorbitant," despite claims by the companies they are reasonable.

"No company will ever die because of the high price premium for Aids drugs in middle-income countries," he said - "but patients may."

"I believe in intellectual property ... but that need not prevent us from getting essential life-saving medicines to those who need them in low- and middle-income countries alike."

Mr Clinton unveiled a deal with two Indian drugs firms to cheaply produce HIV/Aids drugs for 66 countries.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, a petition was filed May 8 to cancel Pfizer's Philippine patent on the anti-hypertension drug Norvasc (amlodipine besylate) after a U.S. court invalidated the company's rights over its second best-selling medicine.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had ruled that the drug's key ingredient, amlodipine besylate, was an obvious variation of earlier inventions.

The CAFC decision was BEFORE KSR v. Teleflex. Now that the admonition AGAINST "obvious to try" found in In re Deuel is gone, courtesy of the KSR case, one can expect MORE drug patents to fall by the wayside, perhaps starting with drugs involved in the chiral switch (enantiomers).

The biggest threat to the drug industry may not be India, but the US Supreme Court.


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