EU makes it easier for companies to produce generic medicines for export

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission on Monday proposed to change intellectual property rules to let pharmaceutical companies produce generic drugs for export to countries and regions where they are not under extended patent protection.

Supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) were introduced to expand patents on certain pharmaceuticals to compensate for the long time it takes such products to come to the market.

While these rules were introduced to aid research investments, it appeared that companies were also shifting production of generics for export out of Europe as a result, the Commission said.

While such drugs would still be protected inside the European Union under the new proposal, companies could make generic versions inside Europe for export to countries where no additional patent protection existed.

“Our initiative will help us open a market of 95 billion euros worldwide,” EU Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska told a news conference.

“The same kind of tool worked very well in Canada and helped the pharmaceutical industry to grow and to employ people. That was our reference,” she added.

The Commission said the proposal, which still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and member states, could generate some 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) of net additional sales per year.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Dale Hudson