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Philippines wants Pfizer’s patent on blood pressure pill cancelled

Marijuana vapors found to have many medicinal benefits.


May 17, 2007: Close on the heels of Brazil and Thailand, Philippines too is seeking to break the patent monopoly of a blockbuster drug so that they can avail the anti-hypertension medicine at affordable costs.

Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), a state-owned company, wants regulators to cancel the patent held by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer on one of its largest drug Norvasc.

PITC urged the Intellectual Property Office to cancel the US-based company's exclusive patents on amlodipine besylate (the active substance in Norvasc) so that Filipino pharmaceutical firms can import or produce cheaper alternatives of the medicine.

The Philippine patent, granted in June 1990 and expiring next month, is held by its British unit, Pfizer Ltd. UK. PITC argued that the patent for Norvasc was "neither new and novel nor non-inventive."

A Norvasc tablet costs about one dollar in the Philippines but only some 10 cents in India, PITC said on its website. PITC says multinational drug companies control around 70 percent of the Philippines' pharmaceutical market.

The world’s top drug maker has been embroiled in a series of litigations pertaining to Norvasc of late. Recently, a federal court in North Carolina upheld Pfizer's patent covering amlodipine besylate, prohibiting the US subsidiary of Synthon from launching a generic version of the drug until September 2007.

The patent covers the besylate salt of amlodipine, its pharmaceutical composition with a diluent or carrier, and its tablet formulation consisting of an anti-hypertensive, antiischemic or angina-alleviating effective amount of the API.

Before that a federal court jury in Virginia ruled that Pfizer did not infringe on another patent owned by Synthon covering a process which Pfizer has been using for over 15 years for making amlodipine, and found that patent invalid on multiple grounds.

Synthon unsuccessfully argued that Pfizer's patent is invalid because of obviousness and the lack of adequate written description. The court ruling in North Carolina is subject to appeal.

Norvasc accounts for $4.71bn (€3.66bn) of Pfizer's $51.3bn 2005 revenue.

Recently, Brazil decided to issue a compulsory license for the import or manufacture of generic versions of another US firm Merck’s efavirenz. Brazil's health ministry plans to import a generic version of efavirenz from India, paying about 45 cents per pill, and may also start making its own copy of the drug after rejecting the New Jersey-based Merck& Co’s offer to cut its $1.59 per pill price by 30 percent. Brazil wanted to pay what Merck charges Thailand--$0.65 per pill.

Last year, Thailand had taken a similar decision. Other countries, including Canada and Italy, have also used a clause in World Trade Organization rules to flout drug patents in the name of public health.




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