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11 February 2020Big PharmaEdward Pearcey

US embassy attacks Dutch govt plans to "undermine" IP

The US embassy in the Netherlands has expressed its concern about the Dutch government’s plans to “undermine” IP rights for medicines.

“We understand that the Dutch government plans to implement policies to expand compulsory licensing and compounding of pharmaceuticals,” said the embassy in a statement.

“Such policies send a clear message to companies that intellectual property rights (IPR) in the Netherlands can be undermined or circumvented for short-term financial benefits,” its added.

In late 2019, the Dutch government put in place plans to allow a small number of pharmacists to prepare and distribute patented medicines (such as chenodeoxycholic acid, used in the treatment of cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis, a metabolic disease), despite the IPR attached to particular treatments.

This type of regulatory change could allow patented medicines to simply be replaced by a cheaper, non-patented copy, said the statement, and could “pose unnecessary risks to public health, as the US Food and Drug Administration has pointed out”.

IPRs are “critical” for any economy that wants to foster a culture of innovation, risk-taking, and entrepreneurship, continued the statement, and they provide some level of certainty that investments in innovation can be recaptured.

“We have seen firsthand in our interaction during the June 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Summit and on numerous other occasions that the Dutch government recognises the important role that IPR protections play in fostering innovation, added the statement.

“It is for this reason that the US embassy is concerned about potential Dutch government policies that undermine IPR for medicines,” it said.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is attempting to create a ‘European life sciences and health hub’ (incorporating an array of specialist scientific, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies) in the Netherlands, something which the “embassy strongly supports”, and “we believe that strong IPR protections are essential to realise this goal”.

In August 2019, the Netherlands’s minister of health, Bruno Bruins, wrote an open letter to the pharmaceutical industry, highlighting that healthcare costs are unaffordable for “more and more Dutch people”.

He argued that while “nobody is denying your right to earn a good living, the sky-high prices for your medicines, exorbitant profits, and a total lack of transparency are inappropriate given your important role in society”.

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