EU deals with Canada, Israel could boost pharma

Pharmaceuticals are at the heart of two trade deals now being hammered out by Europe, one with Canada and the other with Israel. The deals could provide some additional benefits to drugmakers in a difficult global market, but neither deal is assured.

In the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the EU wants Canada to adopt its 10-year patent protection for drugs instead of the 8 years Canada now provides. While the government is believed to lean toward making the change, there are efforts to build popular support to oppose the patent extension. A recent study says the change could cost Canadians up to $2 billion in higher drug costs a year by adding an average of 2.6 years of protection before generics would be allowed, the Winnipeg Free Press reports.

Negotiations resume this week and in an effort to counter concern, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D), the industry trade group, today released three studies documenting the industry's benefits to the country. It says the industry invested $1 billion in drug research in Canada last year, provides 46,000 jobs and contributes an estimated $3 billion to the country's economy.

A vote is expected tomorrow on the trade deal between Israel and the EU which would give the EU access to generics from Israel. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA), the world's largest manufacturer of generics, is based in Israel. Proponents trying to sell the deal to Europeans say it would reduce drug costs there. Opponents are raising moral issues, claiming the agreement would reward Israel's controversial settlements policies in occupied areas by allowing it to sell drugs in Europe that are made in Palestinian territory, PharmaTimes reports. The vote is expected to be close.

The industry did not fare well recently in yet another trade deal when the European Parliament rejected the intellectual property rights protections that would have been agreed to under the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Resistance was mostly from those who saw it as a threat to Internet freedoms, but more stringent regulations concerning counterfeit drugs were also proposed. They were opposed by some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that distribute drugs in developing countries which said the vague language and hard-line penalties put them at risk for moving legitimate generic medications.

- here's the Winnipeg Free Press story 
more from the Winnipeg Free Press 
- here's the Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies release 
- read the PharmaTimes story