FOREIGN DRUG FIRMS THREATEN HALT TO ISRAELI REGISTRATIONS

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Foreign drugmakers are threatening to stop registering new drugs in Israel in response to the planned amendment of the country's patent laws, which has recently been approved by an Israeli legislative committee.

The new bill will enshrine the "Teva Amendment" of 1998, which has allowed Israeli generics makers to export their versions of patented drugs during the original drug's period of protection in Israel. Also, an earlier draft clause terminating drug patents in Israel upon expiry in an "important" WTO member has been clarified.

R&D-based firms claim that the law was not meant to be passed in its present form, and such action fails to take account of recent consultations with the health ministry. Retaliatory measures could now include sanctions, although the US and European Union (EU) have not yet specified what action will be taken.

Significantly, however, the threat to halt registrations may not imply an end to multinational investment and activity in Israel. One leading French firm recently managed to add a product the country's reimbursement basket even though it was not registered with the health ministry.