Colombia Battles World’s Biggest Drugmaker Over Cancer Drug
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Colombia’s government is giving pharmaceutical giant Novartis a few weeks to lower prices on a popular cancer drug or see its monopoly on production of the medicine broken and competition thrown open to generic rivals.
Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria’s remarks in an interview Tuesday are the strongest yet in an increasingly public fight with the world’s biggest drugmaker that could set a precedent for middle-income countries grappling to contain rising prices for complex drugs.
Memos leaked last week to a nonprofit group, written from the Colombian Embassy in Washington, describe intense lobbying pressure on Colombia, a staunch U.S. ally, from the pharmaceutical industry and its allies in the U.S. Congress.
In one memo, the embassy warns that breaking Novartis’ patent for the leukemia drug Gleevec could hurt U.S. support for Colombia’s bid to join the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade zone and even jeopardize $450 million in U.S. assistance for a peace deal with leftist rebels. The memos followed meetings between Colombian diplomats and officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and a Republican staffer on the Senate Finance Committee whose chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, has close ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
- Health Care