Challenges to Implementation
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In this concluding panel about international drug pricing, speakers discuss the legal pitfalls and complexities involved in global pharmaceutical trade. Gareth Williams notes that the implementation of the key TRIPS agreement (an international law that helps defend intellectual property) has been slow. The law “cannot prevent nations from taking steps to protect public health,” and its implementation regarding drug patents has been delayed until 2016 for developing nations. The European Union has created a “fortress Europe,” where you can’t import products from outside the community. Gary Goodwin cautions conference attendees against chatting even informally about drug prices, lest they be viewed by authorities as colluding. Competition watchdogs are increasingly sensitive to the possibility that pharmaceutical industry representatives engage in price-fixing schemes whenever they meet—including public forums such as this. “Any suggestion that pharmaceutical companies today should reach consensus on a pricing formula they might use or advocate, would be problematic and should not be entertained.” Yuri Dikhanov describes efforts within the World Bank to create sophisticated formulas by which to calculate the wealth, income and purchasing power not only of different nations but of their citizens. One part of this enterprise is the International Comparison Project, which attempts to gauge 1000-plus prices for products and services across 150 countries. This “very complex aggregate” would form the basis for an index that might ultimately enable more equitable and realistic price-setting for medicines internationally.
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