Oxfam urges cancellation of Pfizer’s patent on hypertension drug

May. 08, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — International agency, Oxfam urges the Intellectual Property Office
(IPO) to cancel the patent of Pfizer on anti-hypertension drug,
Norvasc in the Philippines following the recent decision of the US
Court of Appeals nullifying the patent granted to Pfizer for
amlodipine besylate, Norvasc’s active ingredient.

The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the petition of Apotex Inc., a
Canadian generic drug maker challenging the patent of Pfizer on
amlodipine besylate. A federal court in the Northern District of
Illinois earlier ruled Pfizer’s patent was valid and enforceable and
Apotex appealed the decision in the Court of Appeals.

“Pfizer has already enjoyed 18 years of patent rights and 15 years of
growth in profits based on a fraudulent claim of invention of the
besylate component of Norvasc. We hope that the IPO will immediately
cancel Pfizer’s patent rights on Norvasc in the Philippines to allow
the entry of equivalent versions of cheaper anti-hypertension
medicines in the country,” said Shalimar Vitan, Oxfam’s Policy
Advocacy Coordinator.

The US Patent and Trademark Office issued the patent rights for
amlodipine besylate to Pfizer on November 7, 1989. Norvasc(r) was
launched by Pfizer as a commercial product in the U.S. in November

The Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) files a petition
today before the IPO nullifying the patent of Pfizer on amlodipine
besylate in the Philippines following the US Court of Appeals

Vitan said the US court decision nullifying the claim of innovation of
the besylate component of Norvasc validates the need to amend the
existing Intellectual Property Code on drugs and medicines. One of the
amendments proposed in the Cheaper Medicines Act, now still awaiting
approval from Congress is to define clearly the scope of patentable

“Pfizer and other multinational drug companies have been blocking the
Cheaper Medicines Act in Congress because it clearly defines that only
medicines that are truly innovative and new are allowed to be given
patent monopoly protection,” said Vitan.

Oxfam said many of the medicines for which patent applications are
submitted are neither novel nor inventive but are actually just new
forms, new combinations, derivatives such as salts, esthers or
polymorphs or new uses of the original medicine. This strategy, known
as evergreening, allows the patent holder to extend the patent life of
a medicine by making a small modification, such as adding an
ingredient to change the formulation, and thereafter, request a new

The Senate passed the bill on 3rd reading and the bicameral conference
should be able to commence deliberations when the Congress sessions
resume after the May elections.

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