Photo: hin255 /
12 May 2014

INTA 2014: Pharma concerned about plain packaging's advance

The pharmaceutical industry, as well as food and alcoholic drink manufacturers, could be under pressure from the spread of plain and standardised packaging, delegates at INTA's annual meeting in Hong Kong were told today, May 12.

“Going too far will make things more difficult in the fight against counterfeit drugs. There are other things that can be done,” said Myrtha Hurtado Rivas, global head of trademarks, domain names and copyright at Novartis in Switzerland.

She was one of a series of speakers who warned that after the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes in Australia, other jurisdictions were likely to follow and other industries would be hit by similar measures.

Trevor Stevens, a lawyer and trademark attorney at Davies Collison Cave in Australia, said there is no evidence that plain packaging has reduced or is likely to reduce smoking rates in Australia.

However, he said, following the government's successful implementation of the legislation, alcohol and food could both have packaging restrictions imposed.

Ronald van Tuijl, IP trademarks director at the JT International subsidiary of Japan Tobacco in Switzerland, agreed. “History has shown that what happens to tobacco first will happen to others,” he said.

Delegates were told that both US and the EU could follow Australia's lead, despite the lack of evidence that plain packaging has reduced smoking rates in Australia.

In the pharma field, access to generic medicines could be improved and health budget reductions achieved by other means, said Hurtado Rivas. The pharma industry supports regulation “but major doubts persist whether standardisation and plain packaging will achieve these objectives”, she said.

The INTA conference runs from May 11 to 14.

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