Written by Staff Writer at CNN
It’s an all-too familiar story: the great, benevolent consumer conglomerate buys a foreign company and de facto forces its hands to produce a particular product no matter its cost.
The latest example: pharma giant Pfizer has reached a settlement with the Colombian government over the company’s threat to stop marketing its antidepressant COVID-19 if required drug tests were made compulsory by law.
The drug contained probiotics, which were produced by the privately-held Cyprus-based Phytolabs, a joint venture between Pfizer and the Israeli Cosg-Nam Pharm Services.
Phytolabs will make its probiotics and psoriasis pills known as Opacipin, MTX and Veritaine available to other companies via a licensing agreement, Pfizer said in a statement.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in Colombia in 2015, under which the drugmaker faced “de facto termination of the contract for the national marketing of COVID-19 in Colombia”.
The company said that the decision to settle was “in the best interests of COVID-19’s patients”.
Pfizer had warned in June that COVID-19 could be “irrevocably lost” if compulsory licensing laws were enacted.
Co-operatives in Colombia — which currently meet regulatory requirements — were affected by “a lack of visibility about the next steps”.
In its statement on Monday, Pfizer said that it will continue to work with the Colombian government and other stakeholders “to ensure continuity of access to COVID-19 in Colombia”.
Pfizer has been a license provider to Phytolabs for 10 years and had been a key supplier of ingredients to the drug manufacturer.
Its license agreement with Phytolabs prevents Pfizer “from requiring any of Phytolabs’ competitors to cease all activities related to the licensing of consumer products containing the PLNT cluster of probiotics”.
Pfizer will also continue to supply Phytolabs with the MTX formulation of those products, known as Copitocin, Polisoprol, Nioreasia and Xepoline.
Once a manufacturer has complied with COPT-19, Pfizer can negotiate a sales-only license, allowing the firm to sell its products, only.