[Pharm-policy] Israel authorizes parallel imports of medicines
Wed, 31 May 2000 13:02:17 -0400
As the US Congress debates measures that would permit imports of
inexpensive pharmaceutical drugs from Canada and other countries, Israel
rejects US government trade pressures and authorizes parallel imports of
medicines. Here is an editorial from an Israeli newspaper.
Wednesday, May 31, 2000
Putting pharmacy prices to rest
After more than a year of delays, Health Minister Shlomo Benizri
this week signed regulations allowing parallel imports of
Already in February 1999, the Knesset amended the Pharmacist Law
to allow parallel imports, but until this week, the health
minister had refrained from signing.
According to the regulations, starting September 1,
patent-protected pharmaceuticals may be imported by more than one
company from more than one source around the world, thereby
significantly lowering the prices of drugs. Industry sources
estimate the savings will reach into the hundreds of millions of
shekels. This, therefore, is a step that opens to competition an
industry that until now operated as a monopoly.
However, another signature, that of the justice minister, is
needed on the regulation, and so far Yossi Beilin has delayed
affixing his own signature. The state was supposed to respond
yesterday to an appeal to the High Court by the Clalit health
maintenance organization, which wanted the court to order the
ministers to sign the regulation and allow the imports,
but the state's response has been postponed until next week.
The background to the demand to allow parallel imports is
embedded in the reality we all know too well: the price of
prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical prices in Israel are much
higher than in Europe or the United States and it is no accident
that a local idiom for price gouging is "pharmacy prices."
Currently - before the implementation of the newregulation - as
soon as an exclusive importer manages to win the Health
Ministry's approval and then registration of a particular drug,
it is forbidden to import the drug from any other source in the
world, except from the same manufacturer in the same country.
That's one of the reasons that pharmacy prices are so high, and
why the importers enjoy such enormous profits.
There are elements in the U.S. government, influenced by major
American corporations, that are pressuring Beilin with the
argument that if parallel imports are allowed, it will result in
violations of copyrights on intellectual property. But this is a
false claim. According to international agreements on
intellectual property rights, including patents, the United
States has no right to impose sanctions or to demand that other
countries not allow parallel imports, especially when doing so is
part of a war against monopolies that raise prices and harm the
classes because they cannot afford the cost of drugs.
The drug importers and the foreign companies claim that parallel
imports will severely threaten public health because it will be
impossible to supervise the origins of the drugs and the
manufacturing process that produced them. That's a false alarm.
The Health Ministry has already announced that it will closely
supervise the imported drugs, and there's no difference in the
quality of a pharmaceutical if it's bought in the United
States or in Italy. It's the exact same drug, except that the
Italian company is ready to make do with lower profit margins.
It's surprising that Justice Minister Beilin is knuckling under
to the American pressure. Beilin must withstand that pressure and
sign the regulations that will help lower the cost of medicine in
James Love, Director | http://www.cptech.org
Consumer Project on Technology | mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
P.O. Box 19367 | voice: 1.202.387.8030
Washington, DC 20036 | fax: 126.96.36.19976