In recent weeks, various governments have announced that they expect to reach an agreement between the two blocs during the first few months of 2018. With the end of negotiations near, new concerns began to arise when transcending some of the licenses at stake and their implications.
One of the axes of tension between governments and corporations is the possibility of modifying the current pharmaceutical patent system, which could have negative repercussions on production and South American consumers. According to the information available, the parties were considering an extension on the patents for another 5 years (from 20 to 25 years).
This compromise is being strongly rejected by local laboratories, which are anxiously awaiting the expiration of the restrictions in order to launch new products on the market and put an end to the European corporations’ monopoly. The exclusive commercialization of medications began gradually expiring in 2015 and almost all existing patents will have expired by 2020.
Another of the compromises under review will be the exclusivity of the testing data, which are sought in order to standardize new drugs, thereby eliminating the chance that the generic medications, or those that are subsequent to the originally registered drug, could benefit from the system of similarity, which abbreviates the terms of approval for their commercialization.
Organizations such as Doctors Without Borders advise that the agreement with the European Union (EU) will limit access to essential medications for millions of citizens in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. They state that the intellectual property rights protection measures imposed by Europe would limit the supply of generic medications and drive up the value of medications in the region. In a letter to the EU negotiators, more than 20 NGOs, such as Oxfam, offer cautions regarding the “impact” that the European proposals could have “on access to medications” in Mercosur. Likewise, they assert that the agreement “should not include measures that go beyond” the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
It should be noted that these clauses favoring the European laboratories are contrary to the report issued by the United Nations High Level Panel on Access to Medicines, adopted by 193 countries in September 2015. This body warned that “the proliferation of commercial agreements that extend patent and testing data protection could block access to health technologies,” which would result in “an unequal application of health and business policies in the states.”
Meanwhile, in the face of the business community’s reaction, the government appears to have ruled out that possibility, although the ongoing secrecy and absence of documents preclude the terms of the agreement from being ascertained.