Pfizer and Mercury Must Respect People’s Right to Access Quality & Affordable Medicines

Posted on December 3, 2009. Filed under: Resources |

We, advocates for greater access to quality and affordable medicines, especially among the marginal sectors of the Philippine society, view with great concern the current issue between local drug company United Laboratories Inc.,(Unilab) and multinational pharmaceutical firm Pfizer Philippines Inc., on the introduction by the former of generic counter-part to the anti-cholesterol drug Atorvastatin, branded and sold locally and worldwide by the latter as Lipitor.

While we welcome the introduction of quality and more affordable generic counterparts to popular innovator brands in the market as Unilab has done with the introduction of their Atorvastatin version, branded and distributed locally as Avamax, it is fairly apparent that based on recent reports and news accounts, Pfizer has again moved to oppose the marketing and distribution of generic versions to Lipitor not only through the usual legal measures but by employing unwarranted business practices and tactics as well.

While we respect valid patent claims of innovator drug companies, we believe that this right is and always will be secondary to the common good or the social need which is more apparent and necessary in a developing country such as ours. Moreover, we decry business practices which abuse the rights given to the patent holders which seek to perpetuate their claims by ever-greening – the frivolous and false introduction of innovations in a product to surreptitiously secure a perpetual and exclusive benefit. Thus, we support all earnest initiatives which seek to challenge patents and uncover such patent rights abuses here and abroad.

Above all, we condemn the use of threats and the alleged bullying tactics employed by Pfizer against drugstores in their effort to hinder the entry not only of competition but more affordable alternatives to anti-cholesterol treatment and medication which would otherwise have made a difference in the life and health condition of the average patient.

We also view with great concern the non- availability of Avamax in branches of the largest drug retail chain in the country, Mercury Drug. Whether compelled by threats by or under any special arrangement with Pfizer, Mercury’s refusal to carry Avamax in their stocks in effect curtails the legitimate right of patients and clients to access quality yet affordable medicines and likewise virtually kill free competition between Lipitor and Avamax. Hence, unwittingly or not, Mercury here plays the role of accomplice in Pfizer’s insatiable drive for super profits.
We call on the Department of Health (DOH) to intervene on the issue in behalf of the millions of patients who would otherwise benefit from greater access to Atorvastatin. We also call on our lawmakers to undertake investigations in aid of legislation in order to further improve on the milestones that the Cheaper Medicine Act and its corresponding implementing rules and regulations were able to bring forth in this continuing effort to bring safe and affordable medicines within the reach of every Filipino patient. Finally, we appeal to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the Bureau of Food and Drugs (now the Food and Drugs Administartion [FDA]) to conduct open public hearings on the Manual of Substantive Examination Procedure which will strengthen the rules on what is or what is not patentable – a key provision in the law that will prevent ever-greening of patents so as to clearly apply to the present controversy.

Ayos na Gamot sa Abot Kayang Presyo para sa lahat ng mga Pilipino!!!

By: Angelito R. Mendoza


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