Venezuela’s plan to annul some pharmaceutical patents raises concerns over medicine supply

Pharmaceutical patents targeted in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan officials plan to invalidate some pharmaceutical patents and allow domestic manufacturers to produce licensed medicines, an action that could cause shortages and scare off foreign investment, industry leaders said Sunday.

Edgar Salas, president of Venezuela’s pharmaceutical business chamber, warned that abolishing patents could prompt the world’s largest drug manufacturers to stop exporting medicines to Venezuela.

“This could create obstacles to importing the newest medicines,” Salas said.

Commerce Minister Eduardo Saman — a close confidant of President Hugo Chavez — announced on Saturday that Venezuela’s government would annul patents on some medicines under a reform of existing intellectual property laws.

Saman said the measure is aimed at making the interests of powerful drug companies secondary to the needs of Venezuelans suffering from diseases such as cancer or AIDS.

“We cannot allow transnational medicine companies to impose their rights on the Venezuelan people,” Saman told state television. “Patents have become a barrier to production and we cannot allow barriers to the access of medicine.”

Saman did not specify which patents would be annulled.

Venezuela imports most of its medicines.


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