Colombia's "Public Interest Declaration" Puts R&D at Risk

Today, Colombia’s Minister of Health announced what his country is terming a “public interest declaration” that will allow the Colombian government to violate privately held patents and set their own price on Novartis’s breakthrough cancer drug Glivec. This move flies in face of the legal bind between private industry, autonomous governments and the people they represent – jeopardizing the availability of existing and future therapies used to treat the biggest threats to public health.

Pharmaceutical patents are issued and upheld with one clear purpose – to ensure that the creator of a drug is compensated for the billions of dollars in Research & Development often required to bring these lifesaving treatments to market. Colombia’s disregard for such agreements opens the door for infringements on other pharmaceutical patents, both in Colombia and in other nations that decide, “if they can do it, we should we.”

The pharmaceutical industry is just one of many that are threatened by this decision to side-step an internationally recognized patent. Industries from consumer technology to entertainment rely on the recognition of patents and copyright to maintain their profitability. Colombia’s announcement today sets a dangerous precedent. It is imperative that America and other international economic leaders recognize this truth and condemn the Colombian government’s decision to insult Novartis’s role as a lifesaving innovator in the world of medicine.

Ainsley Shea