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China Amends Intellectual Property Laws To Allow For Issuance Of Compulsory Licenses

“China has overhauled parts of its intellectual property laws to allow its drug makers to make cheap copies of medicines still under patent protection in an initiative likely to unnerve foreign pharmaceutical companies,” Reuters reports (Lyn, 6/8). “The amended patent law allows Beijing to issue compulsory licenses to eligible companies to produce generic versions of patented drugs during state emergencies, unusual circumstances, or in the interests of the public,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “For ‘reasons of public health,’ eligible drug makers can also ask to export these medicines to other countries, including members of the World Trade Organization (WTO)” (6/9).

“The Chinese move, outlined in documents posted on its patent law office website, comes within months of a similar move by India to effectively end the monopoly on an expensive cancer drug made by Bayer AG by issuing its first so-called ‘compulsory license,'” Reuters notes. “China is known to be looking at Gilead Sciences Inc.’s tenofovir, which is recommended by the World Health Organization as part of a first-line cocktail treatment for AIDS patients, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said,” the news service adds (6/8). “Since the change in China’s patent law, Gilead has offered certain concessions, including giving China a substantial donation of tenofovir if it continues to buy the same amount, said Paul Cawthorne, coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres’ Access Campaign in Asia,” Al Jazeera writes (6/9).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.