The world's largest drug maker, Pfizer Inc, has won the right to be the only seller in China of its impotency drug Viagra, putting an end to a dozen Chinese companies selling cheaper versions of it.
A Beijing court overturned a 2004 decision by China's patent review board that permitted Chinese drug makers to sell copies, Pfizer spokesman Paul Fitzhenry said Saturday. The ruling may be of wider significance to New York-based Pfizer because it could mean better patent protection for the 20 drugs it plans to be selling in China by 2010, he added.
"We see the decision as an encouraging development for knowledge-based companies like Pfizer who want to bring innovative products to the Chinese market," he said.
Viagra is one of the world's most counterfeited drugs, according to the World Health Organization. It was used by 23 million men last year with worldwide sales of US$1.6 billion.
Counterfeit drugs are an increasing problem in the United States and internationally. The number of cases investigated by the US Food and Drug Administration jumped to 58 in 2005 from six in 2000.
About 8 percent to 10 percent of the world's medical supplies are made up of counterfeit products, according to FDA Deputy Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. The World Health Organization estimates that about US$35 billion in counterfeit drugs are sold each year.
"The result is risks to patients' health," Gottlieb said. "Either risk to their safety directly if the products are dangerous or risks for people suffering complications from the many diseases that prescription drugs can treat today. So this is a serious concern at FDA and it’s a serious threat to public health.”
In the US the FDA plans to announce new actions to prevent the sale of counterfeit drugs. The agency has unsuccessfully tried since 2004 to get companies to put tiny electronic chips on drug packages which would allow pills to be tracked from the assembly line to the pharmacy, Gottlieb said.
(Shanghai Daily June 5, 2006)