Last update 1/1/2011 5:00:00 PM (GMT+7)

Controversial drug launched in Vietnam

Vietnam started yesterday selling Pegnano amid massive supports that the generic hepatitis drug is a lifesaver for the poor as well as protests from a Swiss firm that the act violates intellectual rights.

The Pegnano 180mcg, produced by Ho Chi Minh City-based Nanogen Biopharmaceutical Ltd Company, has been put on sale at the Cam Ha Drugstore in the city’s district 5.

Nearly 10 packets were sold for VND1.9 million ($97) each on the first day, said pharmacist Nguyen Thi Cam Ha, head of the store.

Controversies arise as Pegnano is sourced from Peginterferon alfa 2a, a compound that Switzerland’s La Roche AG says is patented to it.

Granted in 2002 by the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam, the patent is effective till 2017, said Switzerland’s La Roche AG in a complaint letter.

Roche has since demanded Nanogen to stop producing, circulating and advertising Pegnano from December 30.

But Nanogen’s director Ho Nhan maintains his company never violates intellectual laws.

According to article 7 of the Vietnamese Intellectual Property Law as revised in 2009, the government can ban or limit the exercise of intellectual rights in cases where such rights harm national defense, welfare of the people or badly affect other crucial national interests.

Pegnano is a special product encouraged by the government, Nhan earlier told the press.

Meanwhile, there are massive supports for Pegnano as it is more than 2 times cheaper than Roche’s brand name Pegasys.

Among the supporters is Vietnamese deputy health minister Cao Minh Quang who said Pegnano production would reduce monopoly from Roche, helping poor hepatitis patients.

Doctor Tran Tinh Hien, deputy director of the Hospital for Tropical Disease in Ho Chi Minh City also showed his support.

He cited success stories where Vietnam is able to make cheap drugs to cure malaria and does not have to rely on brand name medication any more.

According to him, several countries are ready to violate intellectual property rights to have cheap HIV medicine.

Hoang Huu Doan, former director of the state-run Central Pharmaceutical Factory No. 1, also backed up Pegnano, saying it helps fight drug monopoly.

Many countries are producing generic drugs at lower prices to replace trademarked products, he added.

Pegnano is indicated for the treatment of HBeAg-positive or HBeAg-negative-chronic hepatitis B and for chronic hepatitis C.

Source: Tuoi Tre