CURRENT SOCIETAL CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
28 April 2016
There is a local paper in Western Visayas, The Daily Guardian that points to some Wikileaks cables from the US embassy showing then Sen. Mar Roxas was used by the US to water down what is now called the Cheaper Medicines Act or Republic Act 9502.
The reporter is wrong in interpreting the exchanges in the cables; what happened actually was that Sen. Mar Roxas fought hard to keep the intellectual property rights (IPR) provisions in the Cheap Medicines bill which was disliked by the US government and the US and Philippine-based multinational pharmaceutical companies.
If one looks closely at the same cables cited by the writer of the local paper, the US was actually unhappy with the provisions of Sen. Mar’s Senate Bill 2139 on parallel importation, data exclusivity, and new use patents.
These provisions involve the issue of patents in medicines, which patents are part of the reason why some or most of medicines are expensive, not only in the Philippines but in other parts of the world.
These provisions, in spite of US lobbying to weaken it, were more or less retained in what is now Republic Act 9502, thus one can now do parallel importation of patented medicines from anywhere in the world and whether such drug is patented there, such patent will not matter anymore as they are now considered to have been used up or “exhausted” if bought there, thus the patent holder of that drug, even if they have a similar patent in the Philippines (patents by the way are territorial, thus they are only effective in the country where the patent is issued) cannot stop that importation.
The provision on data exclusivity was finely crafted by the staff of Sen. Mar Roxas and the lawyers of the Philippine Intellectual Property Office, with inputs from civil society groups lobbying for the law, thus it is in accordance with the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement of the World Trade Organization.
The provisions on new use patents prohibits the nefarious practice of “evergreening” by pharmaceutical companies worldwide, where they attempt to find a new use of existing patented drugs, such that the same patented drug whose patent is about to expire, gets to have a new patent and thus an extended monopoly on its market.
The law itself with those much-hated IPR provisions still exists today, and that is testament to Sen. Mar Roxas standing up to US pressure, not giving in to them.
This stance of Sen. Roxas is validated by a similar analysis of the same wikileaks cables by a well-recognized US NGO, the Knowledge Ecology International, which monitors how US IPR policy is being rammed down the throat of developing countries through various forms of pressure and our local news website Bulatlat.