GTPI asked Brazilian Minister of Health stronger stance to preserve health defense mechanisms

June 19th 2015 – At a symposium held in the Chamber of Deputies, the GTPI (Intellectual Property Working Group) wrote to the Minister of Health demanding firmer action in the case brought by multinational pharmaceutical companies to end the prior consent of the National Agency for Sanitary Surveillance (ANVISA).

The morning of June 17th, GTPI was present at the Symposium “HEALTH: Everybody´s right, State’s duty”, held in the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia. At that time, a letter was handed in to Health Minister Mr. Arturo Chioro, in which GTPI asked the Ministry of Health to publicly take position in defense of ANVISA’s prior consent mechanism , an important public health defense mechanism that guarantees access to health care products in Brazil, since the MS Ordinance 736/2014 was signed in November 2014.

The mechanism known as “prior consent” under Article 229-C of Law 9,279 / 96 was created to ensure the best technical standards in the decision process on pharmaceutical patent request analysis. This mechanism consists of a joint assessment between ANVISA and INPI (National Institute of Industrial Property) in order to avoid granting an undeserved patent if it does not meet the patentability requirements established by law.

Therefore, the prior consent of ANVISA is a stage of great importance in ensuring the right to health and access to medicines in Brazil, since it prevents the grant of undeserved patents that could block the availability of affordable generic medicines for the population.

Constant attacks

Despite being praised by patient groups, civil society and many experts in the field, and seen as a breakthrough by different international organizations, ANVISA’s prior consent has been questioned in Brazil by both the Legislature and the Judiciary Branch, and especially by multinational pharmaceutical companies, as well as by the Executive Branch interpretations that weaken the participation of ANVISA in the examination of patent applications.

Among these attacks it’s notorious a case involving Interfarma (an association that represents the interests of foreign pharmaceutical companies), who filed a collective action to prevent ANVISA from analyzing compliance with the requirements for patentability in the practice of prior consent. If successful, this action could mean the end of the prior consent mechanism.

In a context of social spending cuts and reduction of public resources allocated for health, ANVISA’s prior consent mechanism is specially important and therefore GTPI expected a stronger stance from the Brazilian Government as not to eliminate it but strengthen it.

GTPI denounced Interfarma at the UN

During the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council, conducted between June 15th and July 3rd, GTPI made an oral statement during a debate on TNCs, drawing attention to the ‘Interfarma vs prior consent’ case.

GTPI denounced that ‘transnational private companies are attacking sovereign state’s laws designed to protect health policies from patent abuse by those same transnational corporations. From a human rights perspective this is unacceptable, so we appeal to the Human Rights Council to continue working on the issue of human rights’ violations by transnational corporations and to continue building the path started in June last year to adopt a binding treaty that would allow punishment for such violations.’

GTPI questioned Brazilian Minister of Health

At the symposium held in the Chamber of Deputies, the Minister of Health called on parliamentarians and social movements to use the 15th National Health Conference’s platform (to be held in December this year) to reaffirm their commitment to health as a universal right. According to the minister ‘we cannot set back from this civilizational achievement.’ The Minister also stressed the importance of fighting wasteful spending, the need for markets to ensure the continuous incorporation of health technologies and emphasized that it is time to address the sustainability debate.

In response to these comments, GTPI made an oral intervention questioning the Minister about short-term strategies of the Brazilian Ministry of Health to reduce drug prices. The Minister replied that the Ministry has tried to invest in industrial development and strengthening of public laboratories in order to achieve price reductions. He also cited strategies currently being considered (such as collective purchases through Mercosur) and said he was open to discuss new possibilities of price reduction strategies at the 15th National Health Conference.

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