COLOMBIAN ATTORNEY GENERAL CRITICISES FTA

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Colombia's Attorney General Edgardo Maya has criticised the recent Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US, claiming it will have negative effects for the country. The comments come after recent street protests from union activists in Peru, who are also concerned about the impact of the Andean trade pact on the local drug industry.

Maya is particularly concerned that the FTA will result in the implementation of strict intellectual property accords that go further than WHO-TRIPS standards. Patent protection in Colombia is among the weakest in Latin America and an estimated 40% of all medicines consumed in the country are copy drugs, known as "similares."

However, industry observers are yet to be convinced how diligently Colombia's government will enforce the new patent legislation as it relies on local industry to maintain healthcare provision, and cheap copies are vital.

On the surface at least, Colombia seems to be addressing the problem with the publication of draft legislation, known as law 53, which would see higher fines and tougher penalties for companies found copying medicines. Yet recently Colombia's drug regulator, INVIMA, allowed a local company to use a US-based drugmaker's trademark, demonstrating that the government's commitment to international accords remains at best erratic