Big Pharma could land billions of dollars in annual sales that it would have lost to generic competitors thanks to a Food and Drug Administration backlog of applications for generic drugs. The article dissects the potential advantages and disadvantages, including it being bad news for generic drug makers like the industry leader Teva Pharmaceuticals, but great news for Big Pharma companies which can continue to sell their branded drugs after their patents have expired without any generic competition.
Health equity in economic and trade policies
Amid news that the President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, today will announce Brazil’s intention to issue a compulsory license for Merck’s HIV/AIDS drug Efavirenz, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest US provider of HIV/AIDS healthcare, education and prevention and operator of free AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia, hailed the move as a victory for global AIDS activism and AIDS patients worldwide.
The Brazilian Patent Office has rejected a patent application by Gilead on the drug tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), in a move that could increase access to a key HIV/AIDS medicine across the developing world. The decision means that the medicine can now be produced by Brazilian generic companies or imported from other generic sources from abroad. This is the first time that a patent related to an antiretroviral (ARV) medicine has been rejected as a result of a pre-grant opposition in Brazil. The patent office in Brazil rejected it on the grounds that it lacks inventiveness – one of the key requirements for a patent in Brazilian and international patent law. The consequences extend far beyond Brazil’s borders and may set a precedent for other developing nations.
In this paper the author argues that Brazil follow the same route as India and continue to adopt and apply the regime of absolute novelty to prevent non-innovative patents from being unduly granted. They argue that the patent system should respect Constitutional duties to promote technological, economic and social development, especially as Brazil’s path has implications for other developing countries that are affected by intellectual property rights related to medicines and other pharmaceutical products.
The World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) committee on the protection of indigenous knowledge, expressions and genetic resources failed to reach consensus on future work at their meeting held from 29 June to 3 July, effectively postponing the issue till the WIPO General Assemblies in September. The mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) expires this year and deciding the next mandate of the group was the key task at the meeting. Some countries wanted to see the text of a possible agreement before deciding what kind of form it might take (such as an instrument or a database), while others wanted to set a goal of a legally binding international instrument and then work on its text. Informal consultations are planned in the interim between now and the assemblies in late September, though details are unclear. Whether the committee still had a mandate after the meeting was a point of confusion, though it appears that the mandate may carry until the end of December.
In South Africa, at a time when National Health Insurance should be generously funded (7 years after its approval as public policy by the ruling party), the author argues in this paper that state fiscal austerity appears certain to nip the initiative in the bud. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund issued separate reports about South Africa in late 2014, following a new finance minister's mid-term budget speech. In justifying austerity, they revealed 2 important conceptual blockages regarding inequality and international financial relations, giving neoliberal policy advocates intellectual weaponry to impose deeper austerity. In contrast, it is suggested that a "united front" of labour, community-based and social movement activists, along with a vigorous left opposition party in Parliament, could ensure that the class struggle ratchets up in intensity in the years ahead.
According to this article, the BRICS Durban summit in March 2013 marks the point at which the five BRICS powers have carved up the African continent with one common objective: efficient resource extraction through export-oriented infrastructure. The new ‘BRICS Bank’ has cost US$50 billion in start-up capital and comes nine months after $75 billion was wasted by the BRICS powers by bailing out the International Monetary Fund in a manner that shrunk both Africa’s voting share and prospects for world economic recovery. BRICS countries aimed to set up a ‘Bank of the South’. This was dreamt of by the late Hugo Chavez although repeatedly sabotaged by more conservative Brasilia bureaucrats and opposed by Pretoria. the author asks, however, whether this will be any different than Washington’s twin banks? He argues that it will not, if one considers South Africa’s precedent, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), which lost R370 million ($41 million) in 2012, promoted privatisation of water and toll roads, and turned a blind eye to construction industry collusion. The author warns that Africa could become an even more violent battleground for conflicts between BRICS firms intent on oil, gas and minerals extraction.
The July BRICS Summit ratified an agreement on the establishment of a $100 billion BRICS pool of currency reserves, according to a document published early May 2015. It is reported that the bank will invest primarily in infrastructure projects in both BRICS and non-BRICS countries. The establishment of its first regional office in Johannesburg will give access to the Africa, where infrastructure development needs are highest. The idea to set up BRICS bank was first proposed by India and that topped the agenda at the summit of the group in New Delhi in March 2012. India believes a joint bank would be in line with the growing economic power of the five-nation group. The bank could firm up the position of BRICS as a powerful player in global decision-making. India believes that a BRICS bank could, among others, issue convertible debt, which would arguably be top-rated and can be bought by central banks of all BRICS countries. BRICS countries would thus have a vessel for investment risk-sharing.
Many African countries, if not all, are located at the extreme end of what Immanuel Wallerstein thirty years ago termed the core-periphery relationship, a position which impoverishes them to the advantage of rich and industrialised countries in the core. In this paper the author argues that BRICS countries represent sub-imperialists trying to improve their relative location in the world system, perhaps moving toward imperialist power and thereafter even to imperialist superpower status. These countries have different levels of economic development and political influence, vested interests in the African continent and the DRC in particular, and geopolitical positions in world politics. But they all share four characteristics. First, BRICS countries present important opportunities for foreign direct investment that also impoverish people through dispossession of natural resources with little or no compensation, unequal shares of the costs and benefits of mega development projects, repayments of debts incurred to build these projects, and structural exclusion from accessing the outcomes of these initiatives. Second, BRICS countries are argued to share the same modus operandi: accumulation by dispossession. Third, BRICS countries are argued to share the same interests in natural resources including but not limited to mining, gas, oil and mega-dam projects for water and for electricity to meet their increasing demands for cheap and abundant electricity. Fourth, BRICS countries are argued to have poor records of environmental regulation, with virtually no commitment to mitigate climate change and invest in truly renewable energy, to take environmental impact assessments seriously, and to consult with and compensate adversely affected communities.
The author argues in relation to the BRICS summit in October 2016, that BRICS is no longer just an economic grouping but is fast emerging as a political force in global decision-making. Having successfully launched its New Development Bank and Contingent Reserve Arrangement, BRICS now plans to launch its own credit rating agency to end the dominance of the likes of Standard & Poor's or Moody's and Fitch and to bring in emerging economies' perspectives to further enhance their standing and competitiveness in international markets. Similarly, learning from the July 12 Arbitration on South China Sea, BRICS Legal Forum endorsed in August 2016 its own robust arbitration mechanisms to address the problem of double standards of advanced nations. In addition to a now-functioning disputes resolution centre in Shanghai, such as a BRICS-wise arrangement will include commercial arbitration allowing BRICS to resolve disputes for foreign investors. Faced with continuing global financial crisis, leaders have also been discussing developing a BRICS bond market to address challenges of debt securities trading to strengthen their existing lack of liquidity making them vulnerable to foreign portfolio investors.