Local drug companies cry foul play

Pharmaceutical firms claim foreign rivals want to push them out.

pharmaceutical 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
pharmaceutical 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Israeli pharmaceutical industry is facing a concerted effort from foreign rivals bent on forcing their way into the local market and reducing Israeli pharmaceutical exports abroad, according to Teva vice president Chaim Horvitz. "They're really disturbed, and I don't blame them," he said at a press conference Wednesday in Tel Aviv. "They're trying to stop the exports of our generic medicines abroad through so-called legal means," Executives from other companies belonging to the Manufacturers Association of Israel also attended the press conference. Foreign corporations were applying intense pressure on the government to reduce the intellectual property rights of local pharmaceutical companies, Horvitz said. He called on the government to resist those efforts. "The foreign companies don't have to love us, but after years of monopoly, it's time for them to stop playing games," Horvitz said. He accused foreign pharmaceutical companies of "never investing a penny in Israel," and dismissed their promises to open sites across Israel in exchange for an increase in the local share of the market. "I don't buy the claim that they're about to invest," he said. "Let's say a multinational corporation opens a center here and employs 200 people," Horvitz said. "Do you know how many people we recruited? One thousand. So we know something about providing local jobs." He accused the agrochemical firm Interpharm of "using Israeli know-how and then relocating to Switzerland," saying that was the kind of local investment Israel could expect from overseas corporations. Horvitz said he was not advocating protectionism. "This isn't protectionism," he told The Jerusalem Post. "We are on the same level as the United States [in terms of the intellectual property rights local manufacturers receive]. It isn't too much to ask we remain on that level." Horvitz said the Israeli market "is our home and we will never forget that. We're proud of the achievements of Israeli science." He said he had met with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai and felt "the government understands the problem. The government must not let harm come to local industry and exports, and I think they realize that." Horvitz said he was not "calm" about the environment created by foreign rivals, adding that the "issue could be one of life or death for Israeli exports." During the press conference, held to mark press day for the Manufacturers Association of Israel's pharmaceuticals branch, Horvitz said generic medicines being produced by local firms were bringing the cost of drugs down dramatically for Israelis. "Thanks to generic medicines, the annual costs of medicines have decreased $2 billion a year in Israel, and the medicine basket for citizens has grown," he said. Local pharmaceutical companies were responsible for 10 percent of all Israeli industrial exports, which reached more than 120 countries, according to an industry press release. In 2007, the industry experienced 13% growth compared to 2006, and saw its collective revenue reach $3.6b., the statement said. Horvitz predicted that the pharmaceuticals industry would grow by 10% this year and reach revenues of $4b. More than 7,000 Israelis are employed by local pharmaceutical firms, most of which manufacture generic drugs.