“Compulsory licensing is a vital public policy tool to combat the high prices of essential goods such as medicines and to combat the patent holder’s anticompetitive practices.” This was the position of the developing countries during the 30th session of the Standing Committee of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The meeting was held from June 24 to 27 in Geneva, Switzerland.
WIPO is a specialized UN agency established in 1967 and composed of 187 countries.
A week after the WIPO session, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said that “Brazil should never break medicine patents,” a statement that ignores the Brazil’s economic position in the world and the it condition as buyer of medicines, since Brazil has a universal public health system. The statement was made during the opening of the Seminar Interfama – Technological Innovation in Health and Value for the Patient, in Brasília.
For developing countries, compulsory licenses are an integral part of a strong and effective patent law for the development of exceptions and limitations to patents, as provided in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization Trade (WHO).
Compulsory licensing is a legal device that makes the patenting of medicines more flexible, allowing the importation or production of cheaper generic versions, by developing countries and poor countries. It is a device provided in international trade laws, it is up to the government of a country or court to use it without the consent of the patent holder.
In justifying his position, Mendetta’s speech signaled the defense of the interests of the pharmaceutical industry.
“It harms the inventiveness and the time spent by private initiative with research and researchers … it is the private sector that produces, and the government has the role of stimulating production initiatives,” the minister explained.
Position of the minister puts Brazil in limbo
In opposing the position of developing countries, Brazil does not automatically place itself in line with the position of rich countries, since developed countries have been frequent users of compulsory licenses, although they express moderation in their use.
Unlike Brazil’s passive stance, some rich countries are facing laboratories and their abusive practices. In the United States, in February, Republicans and Democrats came together to seek clarification from seven pharmacy executives about the level of prescription medicine prices, in the Senate Finance Committee.
Also in February, Italy proposed at WHO a proposition which requires medicines manufacturers to disclose their production and R&D costs, as well as prices charged for medicines and vaccines.
In Switzerland the Public Eye organization has applied for a Compulsory License to the Ministry of Health for the medicine Perjeta, a blockbuster of the Swiss Roche laboratory for the treatment of breast cancer, whose abusive price has been maintained through intense pressure from the pharmaceutical giant of Basel.
Among developing countries, the government of Kazakhstan is considering issuing a compulsory license for the HIV / AIDS drug dolutegravir.