Groups urge clear implementing rules for cheap medicines law

Posted on January 26, 2009. Filed under: News |

By Max V. de Leon Reporter
Published on Businessmirror, September 17, 2008

LOCAL and international civic groups appealed to the government to make sure that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the cheap medicines law will be strongly worded and will not leave any room for interpretation that would undermine its real intent.

International NGOs Oxfam and the Third World Network, along with local civic groups, submitted their proposals to the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IP Phils.), which is the lead agency tasked to craft the IRR of the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 (RA 9502).

The groups urged the IP Phils. to put in clear terms in the IRR some issues that they think are weak in the RA 9502, including the provisions on the public noncommercial use of patented medicines, international exhaustion of patents, data exclusivity and the power of the Supreme Court to issue injunctions on litigation involving legal disputes.

“This new law puts in place flexibilities that can preserve and strengthen the right to health in the country’s IP law. The proposed IRR ensures that the patent holders cannot use the weaknesses in the wording of the cheaper medicines law to block the public’s access to affordable and quality medicines,” Elpidio Peria, Third World Network associate, said in a statement.

The other groups that submitted their inputs to the IRR are Cut the Cost, Cut the Pain Network, Ayos na Gamot sa Abot Kayang Presyo coalition and the patient group Cancer Warriors Foundation.

“The process of ensuring patent flexibilities and reform was not completed with the passage of RA 9502. This law should not give big, foreign pharmaceutical industry any opportunity to exploit the law’s weaknesses, which would harm the interests of poor Filipinos to avail themselves of affordable, quality medicines,” Mira Bacatan, Oxfam campaigner on access to medicines, said.

The public noncommercial use of patented medicines empowers the government to issue a compulsory license without the consent of the patent owner.

The international exhaustion of patents, on the other hand, allows the government to identify and import inexpensive versions of the same patented medicine from another country or region to reduce medicine prices without the consent of the patent owner.

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