EU Parliament deep-sixes counterfeiting law, drugs and all

For the first time ever, the European Parliament has rejected a trade agreement posed by the European Commission, killing for now protections aimed at attacking drug counterfeiting.

Resistance to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was mostly from those who saw it as a threat to Internet freedoms, the BBC reports. However, it also had been opposed by some nongovernmental organizations that distribute drugs in developing countries. They say its vague language and hard-line penalties put them at risk for moving legitimate generic medications.

"The way it was written, ACTA would have given an unfair advantage to patented medicines and restricted access to affordable generic medicines, to the detriment of patients and treatment providers alike," Pharma Times reports Aziz ur Rehman, an adviser to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), as saying.

The European Parliament's international trade committee says it favors efforts to ensure that generic drugs meet international standards but worried that ACTA's over-broad definition of "counterfeiting" left too much room for error. It said with the defeat of ACTA, the EU should now reconsider similar trade agreements, like one in the works with India, the world's leader in generic drug production.  

The agreement, which was seen as a way to better fight counterfeiting internationally, was negotiated by the EU and its member states, as well as the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland. It was approved by 22 EU members but its defeat in the Parliament means none of them can be a party to the agreement, Pharma Times explains. The vote, the first to reject a trade agreement, was decisive with 478 against, 39 in favor and 165 abstaining.

The EU is taking other anti-counterfeiting measures including implementing a track-and-trace system to help monitor drugs through the supply chain. That measure, however, is pitting generic drugmakers, which believe it will cost too much, against branded drugmakers, which want to stop their products from being illegally copied.

- read the PharmaTimes story
- get more from the BBC