Press Release
January 31, 2007


The Senate yesterday approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 2263, the bill authored by Sen. Mar Roxas that seeks to amend specific provisions of the Intellectual Property Code to make medicines more affordable in the country.

The Upper Chamber voted 20-0 to approve of the measure which, after it becomes a law, Mar Roxas says would herald an era when Filipinos would be able to buy their medicines at more affordable costs similar to medicine prices in Thailand, India, Japan , and other countries.

I sincerely thank my colleagues for their support to the bill, Roxas said, adding:

This is just a first step toward promoting competition in the local pharmaceutical market that would increase peoples access and lead to lower prices of medicines to ensure our peoples health.

Senate Bill 2263 seeks to address the three major obstacles to the peoples access to affordable, quality medicines, namely:

1) Structure of the pharmaceutical industry [] unlike other countries, the industry here is characterized by extreme concentration of market power, in short, controlled by a handful of players. In technical terms, what we now have is whats known as an uncontested market. Whatever these players charge, the market will bear, because of the relative absence of competition and alternatives. Kung ang gamot ay tubig, ang pagdaloy nito ay nagmumula lamang sa iilang gripo at kontrolado din ng iilan lang ang hose.

2) Behavioral orientation of consumers, doctors and public health institutions Our consumers have yet to fully appreciate the value for money offered by generic substitutes. Our doctors and public health institutions must not negate the spirit of the (Generics) law by failing to live up to their duty to inform their patients, particularly the poor, about generic substitutes.

3) Protectionist provisions of the existing law Certain provisions of the Intellectual Property Code (IPC) have been misused over time such that profit trumps public interest. Because of the highly technical and abstruse nature of the intellectual property system, the multinational pharmaceutical companies have dominated the application of the intellectual property law to the detriment of public welfare.

The bill, as approved by the Senate seeks to:

* Amend Section 72.3 of the IPC to expressly adopt the early working doctrine to allow generic producers to get ready earlier so that they can start the production and sale of a generic drug shortly after its patent expires. This proposed amendment is known internationally as the Bolar amendments after such were entered into US Law. Many other countries have adopted similar provisions, such as, Canada , Argentina , Thailand , Malaysia , and Indonesia . Moreover, this principle has been recognized by the WTO in a case involving Canada vs. the European Union member states.

* Amend Section 72.1 of the IPC by adopting the doctrine of international exhaustion of intellectual property rights from the present domestic exhaustion principle currently applied in the Philippines . Under the international exhaustion regime, once a product has been introduced anywhere in the world by the patent owner, then anyone may buy and import the same for resale in the Philippines without risk of patent infringement. Consequently, this amendment will allow the parallel importation of medicines so that anyone, whether a trader or an individual, can shop beyond our shores for better prices.

* Amend Section 159 of the IPC for an exception to the application of trademarks and tradename restrictions when applied to parallel imports.

* Amend Section 26 of the IPC by disallowing the issuance of another patent for new uses of an existing substance that has already been patented. This enables generic companies to aggressively market their own versions without threats of law suits arising from newly-discovered uses for previously patented products. The committee adopted this approach from the Indian Patent Act.

* Amend Section 74 of the IPC, Use of Invention by Government, to remove the requirement for government to undergo the long and tedious compulsory licensing process so that government may avail of the medicine for public health reasons in a more timely manner. The health of our people cannot be made to wait especially in times of emergencies. The government must have the power to do this outright without need for a lengthy process.

Senator Roxas stressed that Filipinos should not be made to pay quality medicines at prices that are five times or more than those available in other countries.

With Senate approval, the bill goes to a bicameral conference committee where its conflicting provisions with the counterpart bill in the House will be reconciled. It will then go back to the plenary of both Chambers for approval before it is sent to the President for her signature.

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