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Pharmaceutical Products

Volume 164: debated on Monday 18 December 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to bring an end to the differential pricing of pharmaceutical products within the member countries of the European Community with a view to ending the current practice of parallel importing of such products from Europe.

Differential pricing of pharmaceutical products between EC member states results from a variety of factors. The issue is being addressed by the Community through the implementation of directive 89/105/EEC, which is concerned with transparency of pharmaceutical pricing arrangements. Parallel importing, which reflects different price levels in different countries, results from the establishment of a single European market with free movement of goods between member states, which the Government fully support. Parallel imports of medicines which satisfy United Kingdom standards as to their safety, quality and efficacy can be expected to continue so long as there are significant pricing disparities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will seek to introduce legislation to extend the patent life of pharmaceutical products by a period which would further encourage innovation and better enable research based pharmaceutical companies to recoup their research and development costs on new inventions before they are exploited by non-innovative companies; and if he will make a statement.

I have been asked to reply.I fully appreciate that the pharmaceutical industry invests substantially in research and development in this country and that effective patent protection is important to enable that investment to be recouped and to encourage further innovation. I am also aware of preliminary proposals for legislation under consideration within the EC Commission which would have the effect of extending the term of patents for pharmaceutical products. We are carefully considering these proposals in terms of their likely impact not only on the pharmaceutical industry, research-based and generic, but also on the price and availability of pharmaceuticals in this country.