U.S. pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly has filed a $500 million international lawsuit against the Canadian government, saying it unfairly shortened the life of patents for its best-selling drugs.
The case, filed Thursday under the rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement, threatens to shed a negative light on a dispute resolution mechanism also being proposed by the U.S. as part of the Pacific trade deal.
Eli Lilly has been arguing with Canada for almost a year over the patents for its best-selling drugs Straterra, used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Zyprexa, used to treat schizophrenia. The pharmaceutical company says Canadian courts unfairly threw out these patents when challenged by generic drug manufacturers, using a legal doctrine that requires a company to provide an unreasonable amount of scientific data in order to secure the patent.
Eli Lilly argues that the Canadian courts are creating too high of a standard for companies to prove the “usefulness” of their products when their patents are challenged by other firms seeking to produce their own versions of drugs. Usefulness is a common benchmark for establishing or maintaining a patent.
I'm quoted in the article:
But Simon Lester, a trade policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said for Eli Lilly to secure a favorable ruling, it would require Canada to change its own laws. It’s unlikely that the government of Canada can order its courts to cease their approach toward testing pharmaceutical patents because the courts, as they are in the U.S., are independent in Canada.
“It’s not easy to tell courts what to do,” Lester said.
To clarify, I just meant that it won't be easy, politically, for Canada's parliament to act here.