Commerce Minister Eduardo Samán announced on Saturday that “patents have become a barrier to production” and stymie access to medicine, placing the interests of multinational pharmaceutical companies ahead of the welfare and needs of the Venezuelan people. With President Hugo Chávez calling patents a “trap,” the government will now revise its patent system, annulling certain pharmaceutical patents and allowing domestic manufacturers to produce licensed medicines. This action follows a recent reform in intellectual property laws authorized by President Chavez.
In a press release issued by the Autonomous Service for Intellectual Property (SAPI), the “technical information” of patents licensed in Venezuela will be posted on the SAPI website so that anyone can “make use [of the information],” which would allow “Venezuelan technicians to improve new technologies that have been developed. ” The president of Venezuela’s pharmaceutical business chamber, Edgar Salas, said this could potentially scare off foreign investment, result in internal shortages of medicine and “create obstacles to importing the newest medicines.” Venezuela currently ranks at the third largest pharmaceutical import market in Latin America, estimated at $1.2 billion.
The latest pharmaceutical developments come on top of previous moves that have jolted the business community, namely nationalizations in the energy, concrete, telecommunications, and steel industries.