THE Health department can import patented medicines through a compulsory license during a national emergency, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines said, amid rising cases of a deadly coronavirus strain.

The IPO office and Health department will come out with a joint memo on the compulsory licensing, Teodoro C. Pascua, the office’s deputy director general, said in an interview last week.

The Philippines is one of the World Trade Organization (WTO) member-countries where the prices of medicines are higher than neighbors with a similar income status.

“The government has no resort but to buy it at a higher price due to patent exclusivity and therefore cannot source out from other countries with the domestic capacity to manufacture these medicines at a much cheaper price,” according to the draft order.

The WTO in 2005 amended the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) agreement to allow member-countries that can’t make medicines to import through a compulsory license.

Under the proposed joint administrative order, DoH may file a petition with the IPO office during a national emergency and to protect public interest.

The petition may be filed if a judicial or administrative body finds that the patent is anti-competitive, among other reasons.

Mr. Pascua said the US pharmaceutical industry had expressed concerns about the move, fearing that their medical intellectual property rights would be disregarded.

“It’s not going to be dictatorial,” he said. “There will still be recognition of due process. They will be informed.”

“The concern is whether the necessary prerequisite conditions are present or fulfilled,” Beaver R. Tamesis, president of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), said in a mobile-phone message.

“It is amazing that some other countries have applied compulsory licensing in a very arbitrary manner to the detriment of the overall industry in their countries,” he said. — Jenina P. Ibañez