Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ecuador Grants First Compulsory License

Props go to Ecuador, which this month granted its first compulsory license for a patented drug. Intellectual Property Watch reports:

The compulsory licence was granted for ritonavir, an antiretroviral drug, on 14 April to Eskegroup SA, the local distributor for Cipla, an Indian generic pharmaceutical producer, according to Andrés Ycaza Mantilla, head of the Ecuadorean intellectual property office (IEPI).

The owner of the patent is Abbott Laboratories, a US pharmaceutical manufacturer. Eskegroup will pay royalties to Abbott for using the licence under the term of the compulsory licence. The compulsory licence has been granted for the time that was left on the patent, until 30 November 2014.

This is a big move, and will make life saving drugs cheaper for Ecuadorians, so again, props to Ecuador.

For some background on the issue in Ecuador, this issue brief gives the low-down.

But Ecuador is not the first country to take measures against Abbott Laboratories. Colombia implemented price controls last year on Abbott Laboratories' Kaletra (ritonavir is the generic name). However civil society was pushing for Colombia to issue a compulsory license, which they stopped short of doing as far as I know. Brazil took similar measures in 2007, resulting in savings of $11.5 million a year. So whats the problem with Abbott? Why all the calls for compulsory licenses? Well, this, from the Aids Healthcare Foundation, pretty much says it all; they charge way too much, crippling countries health care spending and resulting in thousands of people going without life saving medication.

The move by Ecuador is totally legit under WTO rules, so why more countries aren't doing this is beyond me....maybe they are just structurally maladjusted beyond repair, scared to upset the price gouging pharmaceutical companies. Either way, this is a good move by Ecuador, lets hope others follow.

(image from TACD)

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