By Susan Haigney.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) International Vice-President Jay Taylor has expressed the organization’s concerns over the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) 2013 Special 301 Report. The Special 301 Report, released in May 2013, is an annual review of the state of intellectual property (IP) rights protection and enforcement in trading partners around the world and reflects the US Administration’s resolve to maintain IP protection worldwide.
Expressing appreciation for USTR’s efforts to ensure IP protection, Taylor expressed dismay that an out-of-cycle review was not granted for India. “The deteriorating protections for patented medicines in India have become increasingly concerning,” Taylor said in a PhRMA blog. “Over the past year, the Government of India has issued several intellectual property decisions that have disproportionately impacted US biopharmaceutical companies and a number of other innovative sectors. The IP regime in India has been structured and applied in ways that prop up local industries to the detriment of US jobs and the worlds patients.”
According to the report, India remains on the Priority Watch List. And with regard to pharmaceuticals and patents, the administration states it has some concerns. “The United States is concerned that the recent decision by India’s Supreme Court with respect to India’s prohibition on patents for certain chemical forms absent a showing of ‘enhanced efficacy’ may have the effect of limiting the patentability of potentially beneficial innovations. Such innovations would include drugs with fewer side effects, decreased toxicity, or improved delivery systems. Moreover, the decision appears to confirm that India’s law creates a special, additional criterion for select technologies, like pharmaceuticals, which could preclude issuance of a patent even if the applicant demonstrates that the invention is new, involves an inventive step, and is capable of industrial application,” the report states.
Taylor also expressed PhRMA’s disappointment that Canada was moved to the Watch List for 2013. “While PhRMA appreciates the fact that USTR raises serious concerns regarding numerous Canadian pharmaceutical IP measures, we are nonetheless disappointed that USTR has changed Canada’s designation despite the fact that no progress has been made on this front. Canadian policies and judicial opinions continue to harm international innovators to the benefit of domestic industries. Canadian regulators have, for example, created a discriminatory right of appeal regime under which Canadian medicine manufacturers challenging the validity of a medicine patent may appeal an adverse decision through an administrative proceeding while innovative international biopharmaceutical companies cannot. We also are concerned that the heightened standard for patentable utility for pharmaceutical patents is inconsistent with Canada’s trade treaty obligations. USTR and the interagency process should push Canada to provide more adequate IP protections.”
The report does express concern regarding rights of appeal in Canada. “With respect to pharmaceuticals, the United States continues to have serious concerns about the availability of rights of appeal in Canada’s administrative process for reviewing regulatory approval of pharmaceutical products and also has serious concerns about the impact of the heightened utility requirements for patents that Canadian courts have been adopting recently.”
Taylor goes on to state support for USTR and the battle for IP protection. “The value of IP protection should not be undermined by discriminatory market access barriers, including discriminatory government pricing and reimbursement policies. We welcome USTR’s recognition of market access barriers faced by US pharmaceutical companies and their efforts to eliminate them in many countries in order to provide for affordable healthcare today and support the innovation that assures improved health care tomorrow.”
The full Special 301 Report, detailing positive and negative findings from countries all over the world, can be found here.
What do you think? Is the US doing enough to protect the IP rights of pharmaceutical companies in today’s international market?