September 29, 2005

Pharma Israel, which represents research-based multinationals in the country, has called for the government to reverse its lax new patent law, claiming such a move would boost foreign investment in clinical trials by US$200mn per year.

The medical research environment is already a significant and controversial area of reform in Israel at present. The local sector is aggressively developing its discovery efforts, with Ben Gurion University planning a new US$20mn facility.

Pharma Israel claims that Israel's recent amendment to its Patent Law concerning data exclusivity is a barrier to investment. In March 2005, the US Trade Representative downgraded Israel to "priority watch" status on adherence to international intellectual property standards. Both the US and the European Union claim the new measures -- which fail to restrict Israeli generics firms from accessing confidential data under freedom of information laws -- amount to a breach of TRIPS.

Despite the controversy over patent law, multinationals claim that over 100 ethical drugs were launched in Israel in the past two years, including cancer treatments and HIV/AIDS therapies. However, industry observers claim that much of the domestic drug development industry is still in need of modernisation and requires substantial investment if genuine discovery efforts are to advance.