Jamaica companies blocked from selling cheap pressure drug

(Jamaica Gleaner) Jsmaican pharmaceutical company, Indies Pharma, is gearing up for a court battle with international drug-manufacturing giant, Pfizer-USA, over local distribution of hypertension medication used by thousands of Jamaicans living with the debilitating illness.

Because of a 2005 court injunction granting Pfizer-USA the exclusive licence to sell its patented brand Norvasc in Jamaica, local pharmaceutical companies, like Indies Pharma, Medimpex and Lasco, have been barred from selling their generic brands, which are considerably cheaper.
But, two weeks ago, the Montego Bay-based Indies Pharma placed its generic drug Amlocor (amlodipine) on the market, sparking a legal battle with Pfizer-USA.

Within days, Dr Guna Muppuri, managing director of Indies Pharma, received a warning letter from Pfizer’s lawyers in New York reminding him that it was their policy to defend their patent rights against infringement wherever encountered.
The letter read: “ … We kindly request your assistance to ensure that no generic version of amlodipine besylate be distributed, sold or offered for sale in Jamaica.”

It was signed by Robert A. Vargas, Pfizer’s senior corporate counsel.
Affordable drug

Defending the move to sell the cheaper generic amlodipine, Muppuri told The Sunday Gleaner that Amlocor (amlodipine) is the most affordable drug that can help hypertension patients.

“It is the only (affordable) drug that can tame the most ferocious and uncontrollable hypertension, protecting patients from the devastating complications of severe congestive heart failure, stroke, renal failure and many other vascular complications due to hypertension.

“Ninety-five per cent of our patients cannot afford the patented drug,” says Muppuri. “There are too many people with severe hypertension ending up with heart attacks and strokes, and if we can give this drug to the public at under $50 or $100 per month of supply under the NHF (National Health Fund), then it is really a great boost to people and will save the country spending over $15 million dollars a month.”

However, Pfizer-USA contends that the patent, which is binding until 2016, protects them under Jamaican law. When the patent expires, Pfizer would have had a 24-year run in Jamaica.

Still up in arms from the 2005 injunction, Medimpex and Lasco, local pharmaceutical companies, will again have the ear of the judges in the Supreme Court on April 27.

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