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Raid conducted, despite a pending case to determine legality

/ 12:23 AM July 24, 2014

This is in reaction to the paid ad titled “Police seize P15 million worth of illegal medicines” (News, 6/29/14).

The medicines referred to as “illegal” are Xibra (Etoricoxib) and Torico, and the raid conducted on Ferma Drug, Ellebasy Medicale Trading and Mark Erickson Enterprises last June was made on the basis of a writ of search and seizure that Merck Canada  was able to get from the Makati Regional Trial Court.

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However, the original legal dispute over these medicines was between Sahar International Trading Inc. (Sahar)/Suhitas Pharmaceuticals (Suhitas)  and Merck.  Sahar imports Xibra; and Suhitas imports Torico.  Both medicine brands are duly registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—Xibra since Feb. 14, 2012, under FDA Registration No. DR-XY40637 which will expire on Feb. 14, 2017, yet. These importations are allowed by Republic Act No. 9502, also known as the “Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008”—a law enacted by our patriotic lawmakers to stop multinational drug companies in the Philippines from controlling the distribution of very expensive medicines for their own benefit at the expense of poor Filipinos. The law amended three laws—RA 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, RA 6675 or the Generics Act of 1998 and RA 5921 or the Pharmacy Law.

In the original case, Merck petitioned for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and injunction to stop Sahar and Suhitas from selling their imported FDA-registered Xibra and Torico. Merck claims that it has the patent for these medicines. The court denied the TRO petition; the petition for injunction is now being heard. In other words, Merck secured the search and seizure order used in the June 29 raid even as there is still a pending case to determine their legality.

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It may be noted that in the Roma case, the Supreme Court emphasized that importing pharmaceutical drugs with counterpart brands already registered in the Philippines is not against the law. It is a settled doctrine that  a Supreme Court ruling on the legality of a certain provision of law becomes operative. If we hold otherwise, generic drugs in the country registered with the FDA would all be illegal.

Is it fair to go after the legal distributors of the Xibra and Torico while the court has yet to determine whether or not these drugs are “illegal”?

May we also point out that the seized drugs were actually worth P2 million, not P15 million as Merck claims? If anything, the disparity only shows how exorbitantly Merck and its ilk price their medicines.

We also call attention to the fact that the raid was conducted without the presence of a representative of the Intellectual Property Office.

—MACK P. MACALANGGAN,

head of public relations and director,

Sahar International Trading Inc.

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TAGS: illegal medicines, letters, merck, police raid, sahar international trading
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