Press Release
June 9, 2006

Senate Committees Report on Intellectual Property Code Amendments
Filed for Senate Floor Deliberations

Crossing party lines, 16 senators have signed the committee report of the Senate committees on Trade and Commerce and on Health and Demography and substitute Senate Bill No. 2263 containing the proposed amendments to Republic Act 8293, the Intellectual Property Code (IPC) of the Philippines, which make the laws on patents, trade names, and trademarks more responsive to the healthcare needs of the Filipinos.

Senator Mar Roxas, trade and commerce committee chairperson, and one of two principal authors of the measure (the other is Senator Pia Cayetano who chairs the Upper Chambers committee on health and demography) expressed satisfaction at the signing of the report and immediately thanked his colleagues, particularly Sen. Juan Flavier, the resident doctor of the Senate, for their support.

Aside from Roxas and Cayetano, the other signatories are Senators Richard Gordon, Ramon Revilla Jr. Sergio Osmea III, Edgardo Angara, Ralph Recto, Panfilo Lacson, M. A. Madrigal, Manuel Lapid, Rodolfo Biazon, Alfredo Lim, Luisa Ejercito-Estrada, Juan Flavier, Francis Pangilinan, and Aquilino Pimentel.

The completion of the report and its quick signing by the members of the two committees demonstrate that there is in the Senate a favorable consensus on meeting the health care needs of ordinary Filipinos. This bill, once it becomes a law, will promote greater access to quality lower priced medicines for all Filipinos. De kalidad and abot-kayang gamot are definitely within the reach of the masses, he said.

Senator Cayetano and I will shepherd this measure until its approval on the floor, hopefully with the support of our colleagues, now that we have reported it back to the Senate, he added. Deliberations are expected to start when the Senate resumes its sessions on the end of July 2006.

Last October 2005, Roxas filed Senate Bill No. 2139, the basis for the committee report and substitute Senate Bill No. 2263, to allow for the importation and early development of patented drugs, as well as exceptions to the application of standard compulsory licensing requirements for drugs or medicines. These, he said, will eventually lower the prices of drugs in the country, reported to be one of the highest in Asia.

The report says that at least 15 million Filipinos have no access to affordable drugs and medicines, and for those who have access, their budget for total health related expenses, not just medicines, is a measly P2,000 per person per year.

A weak and ailing workforce will not do the economy any good since it will have a bearing on the nations long-term stability, the report said.

The P85-billion Philippine pharmaceutical market is at least 60 percent-controlled by multinational companies, and local or Filipino-owned pharmaceutical companies share the rest of the total market revenue.

This reality, the report further says, was due to the dominance of the multinational companies in the application of intellectual property law. The multinational companies contend that the medicines they produce are of higher quality, safe, and efficient, hence, expensive; but this they justify to be the effect of higher spending in research and development.

On the other hand, Filipino pharmaceutical companies say the intellectual property laws of the country are designed in favor of heavily protecting the patents of multinationals to the point that they are granted market monopoly. Hence, Philippine generic manufacturers are always at risk of potential lawsuits if they consider producing generic equivalents.

The report shows that from 2001 to 2005, the Intellectual Property Office issued 2,097 patents to foreign pharmaceutical companies compared to just one to a Filipino applicant. During the same period, foreign pharmaceutical companies filed 170 patent applications as against 22 applications by local companies.

The Roxas bill zeroes in on four major provisions of the IPC: namely, an addition to non-patentable inventions, particularly to new uses of drugs whose patents have expired; parallel importation, which would allow the country to shop all over the world for a patented drug for a good price; early working, which refers to the process by which generic drug companies are allowed to experiment and test for BFAD approval of generic versions of a drug or medicine before its patent expires; and, making government use of patented drugs more efficient and effective. The substitute bill was designed in cooperation with the Intellectual Property Office and without violating the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

Broad multi-sectoral alliances, composed of government and non-government organizations and peoples organizations, have rallied support for the bill. The government agencies are the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), Intellectual Property Office (IPO), and the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD). The nongovernment organizations are the World Health Organization (WHO), Philippine Medical Association (PMA), Philippine Nurses Association (PNA), Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines (IMAP), Philippine Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (PCPI), Third World Network (TWN), Cut the Cost, Cut the Pain Network (3CPNet), OXFAM Philippines, Ayos na Gamot sa Abot kayang Presyo (AGAP), and various other NGOs for the poor, sick, and elderly.

On the other hand, the multinational companies, under the umbrella organization of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), oppose the measure.

News Latest News Feed