(More on Colombia here: /colombia)
On May 16, 2016, 122 health, trade, and intellectual property experts defended the Colombian government’s right to issue a compulsory license on imatinib, an expensive leukemia drug that is being sold at a high price by the Swiss drug company Novartis, in a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
“High prices for any important medicine impose a burden on the public health system responsible for providing it, and lead to the rationing of treatment and other health services,” the experts wrote. “When a pharmaceutical company uses a patent to exclude competition, it can charge much higher prices,” they continued.
James Love, the Director of Knowledge Ecology International, and Andrew S. Goldman, Counsel for Policy and Legal Affairs at KEI, both signed the letter.
The experts countered misleading claims that the grant of a compulsory license would violate international law (including the TRIPS Agreement and the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement) and constitute an expropriation of Novartis’s property. They also reiterated that a compulsory license would be in the public interest in Colombia because it would alleviate budget stress through direct generic competition. “We hope this letter will support Colombia’s ongoing efforts to increase access to affordable medicines and put to rest any concerns regarding the international legitimacy of compulsory licensing,” the letter said. “Compulsory licensing is a key tool for protecting the financial stability of health systems and ensuring access to medicines and health services for all.”