Interception of generics in the Netherlands: Dutch courage? – Logistics for global health and aid - A Humourless Lot

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Interception of generics in the Netherlands: Dutch courage?

by Michael Keizer on April 1, 2009

Over the last couple of weeks, a lot has been said about the interception by Dutch customs of raw materials for a generic version of the drug Losartan. Although the materials were released in the end, Dutch authorities have refused to say whether this could happen with future shipments as well.

The interception was based on European Union legislation, which requires member countries to seize counterfeit brand products as well as raw materials for their production. However, it was far from clear that the generic drugs were counterfeit under the directive in question, and it was very clear that they were not under the TRIPS agreement and the DOHA declaration, which provide for compulsory licensing of patented drugs. In any case it is clear that an incident like these could seriously endanger the flow of generic drugs to developing countries, possibly endangering public health in those countries.

For many, it looks like the Netherlands caved in under pressure from pharmaceutical companies. Merck & Co, the patent holder in Losartan, maintains a large distribution hub in the coastal town of Haarlem, and is an important employer for the region.

Schiphol Amsterdam Airport is an important logistics hub for generic drugs and their raw components as they move from (mainly) India to Africa and Latin America. This behaviour by Dutch customs could imperil that position and the Netherlands’ position as a transit hub. Perhaps that is something for the Dutch minister of Economic Affairs to mull over before deciding to let something similar happen again.

(Picture: generic drugs by Wendy House. Some rights reserved.)

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