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European Drug Pirates: Seizure of Generic Drugs a Growing Trend

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medicine-aussie-girlLast week I heard a very interesting presentation about a pattern that is emerging in Europe around the seizure of generic medicines. According to Percy Makombe from the Economic Justice Network presenting a paper at the Symposium on Health For All in an Interconnected World at York University, its possible to draw parallels between recent drug seizures (17 in Holland in 2008 alone) in Europe and the havoc being wrought by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.

Though the generic drug trade is legalized through the agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), there is some confusion about their legal status, says Makombe. There is a perception that generic drugs are pirated or counterfeit, while in actual fact international agreements create certain provisions related generic medicines.

Makombe cites the example of a recent seizure of a shipment of Amoxicillin in Germany because the shipment - destined for the Pacific Island of Vanuatu - was suspected of violating trademarks. It wasn’t until GlaxoSmithKlein, the former patent holder of the drug, verified that there was no conflict that the drugs were released. They had been held for four weeks.

But, as Makombe points out, this is by no means an isolated incident. Ron Labonte from the University of Ottawa goes further to state explicitly that it is “fairly clear that there is a deliberate block against generic medicines by the European Commission.”

Some of the issues:

  • Seizures are allowed based on “suspicion” that they could be counterfeit rather than real legal issues.
  • Slowing down the transit of essential medicines has real implications for public health in the destination countries.
  • Seizures block the legitimate growth of the generic industry.
  • The European argument is that they are “saving lives” by verifying that the drugs are not counterfeit or pirated.

For more info:

(photo credit: aussiegall)

One Comment »

  • arun shrivastav said:

    IT IS UNFORTUNATE THE SEIZURE OF GENERIC DRUGS IN TRANSIT AND EC IS ACTING LIKE SOMALI PIRATES IN THIS REGARD.INDIAN DIPLOMATS HAVE FAILED TO PRESSURISE EC TO EXEMPT GENERIC MEDICINE IN TRANSIT.SO CHANNEL OF DISPUTE SETTLEMENT OF WTO IS THE LAST RESORT.INDIA HAS A GOOD TRACK RECORD AT DISPUTE SETTLEMENT IN RECENT YEARS AND THE EFFORTS OF THE LEGAL DIPLOMAT–SMT UMA SEKHAR AND THEIR AMBASSADOR UJAL SINGH BHATIA IN INDIAN MISSION IS HIGHLY APPRECIABLE.IN THE LIGHT OF NOKIA JUDGEMENT IN UK COURTS AND ITS CUSTOMS ,INDIA NEEDS TO GO ALL OUT AFTER EC IN CONSULTATIONS AND BEFORE THE PANEL AND THAT IS ONLY WAY FORWARD.RIGHT TO LIFE OF DEVELOPING COUNTRIES INCLUDES RIGHT TO HEALTH AND CHEAP MEDICINES FOR THAT PURPOSE AND EC REGULATION CANT COME IN THE WAY

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