Countries angered over World Health Organization's leadership of anti-counterfeiting taskforce

May 21, 2010
Pharmaceutical Commerce, Pharmaceutical Commerce - May/June 2010,

India and Thailand say WHO is confusing counterfeit issue with patent protection

Get ready for a showdown. At the 63rd World Health Assembly, held this week in Geneva, India and Thailand offered a resolution calling for the removal of the World Health Organization’s involvement in the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT), a global coalition of anti-counterfeiting stakeholders created by WHO in 2006.

The countries are concerned that IMPACT has been involved in a number of unwarranted seizures of generic drugs—most likely referring to shipments in 2008 and 2009 from generics powerhouse India that were seized in the EU en route to South American markets. The resolution, titled “Measures to ensure access to safe, efficacious, quality and affordable medical products,” claims that these “unwarranted seizures” affected “timely access to efficacious affordable medical products for people in developing countries, including least-developed countries.” India and Brazil recently filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization over the 2008—2009 seized drugs.

They purport that these and similar actions of IMPACT go against WHO’s stated purpose: “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.”

The countries also say IMPACT is confusing the term generic with counterfeit.

The resolution states, “Infringement of intellectual property rights is being confused with issues of quality, safety and efficacy.” The countries say they recognize the need to promote medical safety, but these measures should not “become barriers to timely availability of affordable medical products and production of generic medical products.” It’s not a new complaint; the same issue was brought up at the 2008 World Health Assembly.

Of course, those countries pointing the finger at WHO have sizable generics industries—Thailand has even threatened, through compulsory licenses, to force pharma companies to allow a generics maker to produce its drug there. So whose interests are India and Thailand serving through this resolution? The health of the world? Or their generics markets?