AGAP’s response to PHAP’s Leo Wassmer Letter to the Editor

Posted on July 25, 2006. Filed under: Resources |

This is AGAP’s response to the Letter to the Editor (Parallel importation of drugs an unnecessary solution) by PHAP‘s Leo Wassmer that was published on Page A14 of the July 1, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Dear Editor,

This is in response to the letter of Leo Wassmer of PHAP dated 1 July 2006 where they stated that they oppose parallel importation “because it promotes counterfeit medicines and infringes on intellectual property rights.”

Perhaps Mr. Wassmer and the members of PHAP should be reminded that the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health adopted by the 4th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Doha, Qatar on 14 November 2001 stated that each WTO member country, like the Philippines, is free to establish its own regime for the exhaustion of intellectual property rights without challenge. This means that countries can choose whether to allow or forbid parallel imports as they think best, without fear of a dispute settlement case brought against them before the WTO. Now, for Mr. Wassmer or PHAP for that matter to say that parallel imports infringe on their intellectual property rights only shows their ignorance of this international law principle to which they or their highly-paid lawyers should know about. This means that if Mr. Wassmer and company goes to the WTO on this assertion, their suit would go nowhere. The real reason why Mr. Leo Wassmer of PHAP is objecting parallel importation is because it will decrease MNCs’ market share.

Way back in 2001, the Philippine Government has initiated parallel importation to take advantage of the differential pricing between medicines in other countries, like India, but these efforts have been thwarted by the PHAP through their injunction suits to stop the Philippine Government for these efforts. PHAP should mind their corporate social responsibility and let the Philippine Government and other groups avail of cheaper medicines from other countries. For example, data from the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) dated 16 February 2006 show that a 500 mg tablet of Ponstan, while it costs P21.82 in the Philippines, costs only P 2.61 in India and P 1.38 in Pakistan.

As to the charge that these imports are fake, this is a sweeping statement meant to discredit lower-priced medicines and implant in the public mind that cheap medicines are fake. That is also a great disservice to the Filipino public who suffer from very high drug prices, which is the highest, if not in Southeast Asia, then in Asia.

Even the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health of the World Health Organization in its Report released last April 2006 stated that developing countries should retain the possibilities to benefit from differential pricing, and the ability to seek and parallel import lower priced medicines.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Jose P. Pepito
President, Nationwide Association of Consumers, Inc.
Ayos na Gamot sa Abot-Kayang Presyo (AGAP) Coalition


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