Venezeula may join the ranks of patent-bucking countries. President Hugo Chavez says he's set on shaking up intellectual property rules because patents "have become a barrier to production, and we cannot allow them to be barriers to medicine," Reuters reports. Scientific discoveries and inventions should be "knowledge for the world," he maintains.
The socialist leader has nationalized some Venezuelan industries, and recently threatened to take over a Pfizer plant in the country. By abolishing patents, Chavez would clear the way for domestic drugmakers to manufacture versions of branded meds. Commerce Minister Eduardo Saman, who's one of Chavez's close cronies, characterized the patent changes as an act of defiance against global Big Pharma. "We cannot allow transnational medicine companies to impose their rights on the Venezuelan people," he said on state television.
The drugs industry in Venezuela is up in arms, of course. Edgar Salas, who runs the pharma chamber of commerce, warned that invalidating patents could scare drugmakers away from the Venezuelan market completely. Venezuela could face drug shortages and lose foreign investment, Salas said.