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12 Apr 2017

Public Eye

Colombia: Leaked documents reveal Novartis threatened govt. with intl. investment arbitration over licensing of pharmaceutical patents

"Compulsory licensing in Colombia: Leaked documents show aggressive lobbying by Novartis", 11 Apr 2017

Leaked letters to the Ministry of Trade and Industry show how Novartis threatened to resort to international investment arbitration for an alleged violation of the Swiss-Colombian bilateral investment treaty (BIT)...This undemocratic procedural mechanism, better known as Investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS), forms part of many trade agreements and allows an investor from one country to bring a case directly against the country in which they have invested before a private international arbitration tribunal, without going through local courts first.  This threat has undoubtedly influenced the decision of the Colombian health authorities to stop short of pursuing a compulsory license, focusing only on a price reduction...The confidential documentation unveiled by Public Eye reveals undue pressure and features many misleading facts related to the issuance of a compulsory license...The pharmaceutical industry and its hosting countries are fighting unfairly against any sovereign countries resorting to legitimate legal instruments such as compulsory licenses, out of fear that a precedent may be set.  Colombia is no exception, and the lawsuits lodged by Novartis are just another sign that their determination is to place corporate interests and profits above public health and human rights.