August 12, 2005

Argentina's National Administration of Drugs, Foodstuffs & Medical Technology (ANMAT), has called for the government to impose tougher penalties against drug copying. A draft law on the matter is currently under consideration, a move that has been welcomed by national drug associations.

Argentina has a large number of illicit medicines on the market, owing to inadequate border controls on copied and counterfeit drugs. In the past, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) listed Argentina as a "priority watch" country regarding intellectual property matters.

The concept of patent protection is relatively new in Argentina, with the filing of pharmaceutical patents only permitted since 1995. The poor intellectual property provisions have caused tensions between the government and international drug makers, and have stifled foreign investment in the sector.

With the collapse of the country's economy in 2002, the government has placed patent reform relatively low on its agenda, especially as a stricter regime would reduce the amount of cheap medicines available to the population. Further, there are suspicions that any crackdown will more immediately benefit local "generics" companies.