FEBRUARY 9 — The recent news that Malaysia's significant drop in the sixth annual US Chamber International Intellectual Property (IP) Index was a direct result of last year's decision to implement a government-use licence to produce a generic version of a Hepatitis C drug, needs to be taken seriously.
Commenting on the announcement, Azrul Mohd Khalib, chief executive of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, said, “Last year, we predicted that Malaysia's reputation in intellectual property rights, both at home and abroad, would take a serious hit due to this risky move.
“Despite this negative setback, the situation is reversible. It represents an opportunity to reconsider the offer of a voluntary license for the drug which remains available for the government. Taking advantage of the voluntary licence would make it possible to develop, produce and provide an affordable cure for Hepatitis C in Malaysia without resorting to government-use or compulsory licences.
“Through its actions, Malaysia has already demonstrated its resolve and commitment to doing what is necessary to deal with the threat of the disease and to ensure the best access to life-saving treatment for people who need it. This should be used as leverage by the government to negotiate for improved and significant price concessions and technical support. We need a reasonable long-term and sustainable approach to ensuring treatment access for Hepatitis C. It can be done," he emphasised.
“Malaysian progress and achievements in encouraging, cultivating and boosting home-grown innovation are also at risk. Malaysia is growing increasingly rich in intellectual property, research and expertise. There are dozens of local and international companies in the country creating innovative health products, including drugs and vaccines to cure and treat diseases.
“If IP protection is perceived to be weak or enforcement is seen to be inconsistent and poor, companies will be unlikely to invest or enter into local partnerships. Our own research or innovation projects could stagnate or move abroad.
“Such concerns and fears could jeopardise efforts such as involvement in future clinical trials and launching of innovative new drugs into the country. As a result, we might not have the best that modern medicine can offer to fight diseases and treat people.
“The challenges faced in ensuring fair and affordable access to effective treatment and medicines are real, including dealing with an overburdened healthcare system and ensuring sufficient financing. But to overcome them, we need to send the right message that we are open to working together in partnership.”
* Press statement by the Galen Centre on February 9, 2018.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.