Generic drugs often become available earlier in other countries and that means greater affordability. Generally, it’s a violation of a drug companies’ intellectual property rights when a company sells a generic in a country before the patent has expired. But what happens if you import a generic version of a drug, one that is lawfully-made and sold in a country where it is available but still on patent here, to fill a prescription? Are you committing an intellectual property violation?
According to a side agreement (of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) among countries party to the World Trade Organization, called TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), countries are not obligated to enforce IP laws for small importations of goods, which include pharmaceuticals.
You can find this in Part III, Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, Article 60:
De Minimis Imports
Members may exclude from the application of the above provisions small quantities of goods of a non-commercial nature contained in travelers’ personal luggage or sent in small consignments.
The “above provisions” refer to enforcement actions against intellectual property violations that involve goods crossing borders (in person, by plane, sea, through the mail, etc.). If you read closely, it includes the word “may.” That means, in theory, you could be accused of an IP violation, but I know of not a single instance of that happening to an individual importing a medicine for personal use.
What is clear is that there’s general agreement (no pun intended) that individuals should not be subject to IP enforcement actions for importing a product for personal use. When it comes to a life-saving medicine, this seems like common decency – even natural law.
Tagged with: article 60, intellectual property rights, patent, TRIPS, WTO
As reported in the The Inquisitr, due to generic competition, Lipitor prices are going to plummet in the near future, a relief not only to American patients but to U.S. doctors who often find their patients not taking their cholesterol medication due to cost. In discussing his patients, Dr. Thomas Haffey stated in the article:
They often make tough decisions about whether they eat or whether they take the medicines… Any time you can reduce the costs of quality health care, we certainly are happy and encouraged about that.
High drug prices in the United States lead to 10s of millions of Americans not taking needed medication each year. The end of Pfizer’s patent on Lipitor means that Americans will now be able to more easily afford Atorvastatin – the generic name for Lipitor – in local U.S. pharmacies. As of the end of this month, according The Missourian, a three-month supply of generic Lipitor will cost $30. And the Inquisitr article suggests that within six months generic Lipitor will be priced at $5 for a one-month supply.
To maintain market share, Pfizer, the manufacturer of Lipitor, may come up with some competitive sales strategies. For instance, Pfizer may cut costs for insured Americans to only $4/month co-pays. Pfizer is also pushing to market an over-the-counter version of Lipitor, however it is not yet approved for sale.
According to our research, U.S. prices for a 90-day supply of Lipitor 20mg at a New York City CVS costs $535.99, compared to $85.70 at the lowest cost online pharmacy approved by PharmacyChecker.com – a savings of 84%. So if you want the brand name drug you may be better off with low-cost online pharmacies. But, come the end of November, the best prices for generic Lipitor will soon be available in the good old USA.
Tagged with: Atorvastatin, bricks and mortar, Cholesterol, co-pay, cost, coupon, CVS, generic, Lipitor, over-the-counter, patent, Pfizer, pharmacy, pharmacy checker.com, The Inquisitr, The Missourian, United States