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A short update on the interception by Dutch authorities of raw materials for generic drugs.

Health Action International (HAI) has filed a request under the “Wet Openbaarheid van Bestuur” (the Dutch version of a Freedom-of-Information act) to obtain all documents related to the seizure. According to HAI:

We hope to obtain documentation that will help to identify the operating procedures or events that allowed these seizures to occur and to determine why these seizures continued to occur over a period of time.

We hope that by exercising the right to access the public documents related to these cases, it will finally become clear how and why vital medicines were prevented from reaching patients and consumers in developing countries.

And in a related development: IDA Foundation, which is possibly the largest wholesale supplier of medicines to aid agencies, has sent letters to all relevant ministers and European commissioners (apparently no less than five ministers and two commissioners are involved…) expressing its concerns and asking for steps to avoid similar issues in the future. As IDA is based in the Netherlands and is a not unsizable employer themselves, their influence might help a bit as well.

I will keep following this closely. In the mean time: if you are based in the EC, or especially if you live in the Netherlands, or your organisation has strong ties there, please exert any influence you might have. This is an important issue that could have a serious impact on global health.

(Image: Freedom of Information? by Ian Parks.)


Continue Reading 0 comments }Logistics, Public health

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.)


Continue Reading 1 comment }Logistics, Public health