New guidelines in Brazil give more power to ANVISA in the examination of pharmaceutical patent applications

On March 13, 2017, the board of directors of Agencia Nacional De Vigilancia Sanitari’s (ANVISA) announced that they had reached a new agreement with the Brazilian Patent Office, namely, the Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial (INPI), concerning the prior approval provision under Article 229-C of the Brazilian Patent Statute (For more information about the 229-C article, please see our posts here, here, and here).  On April 12, 2017, after an event with several authorities and President Michel Temer, ANVISA and INPI published a written version of the new joint guidelines #1/2017 (translation enclosed here:  INTERAGENCY ORDINANCE). These guidelines describe the new workflow between ANVISA and INPI involving the examination of pharmaceutical patent applications.

Article 4 of the guidelines establishes that ANVISA will analyze whether a patent application is contrary to public health.  According to Article 4, a patent application claiming a product or process is considered to be contrary to public health when the product or process presents a “health risk”.  The article further states that the “health risk” will be characterized when the pharmaceutical product comprises, or the pharmaceutical process results in a substance that has been prohibited in the country”.    

If a product or process is found to pose a “health risk” (as defined in the Annex I of the Ministry of Health’s Ordinance #344 of 1998), ANVISA will deny prior approval and will send the application back to INPI for further handling. At this point, INPI will publish the definitive dismissal of the application. In other words, the application is denied.

The guidelines contain a new approach in the examination of patent applications claiming pharmaceutical products and processes of interest under the Brazilian government’s drug policies and pharmaceutical assistance of the National Healthcare System (SUS). Under Article 5, ANVISA will examine these applications of interest and prepare a “technical” opinion as to whether the claims meet the patentability requirements under Brazilian law.  This opinion will be sent to INPI for use as a third-party observation under Article 31 of the Patent Statute of 1996.  Once INPI receives ANVISA’s opinion, it is “free” to decide whether or not to agree with it.  In the event INPI disagrees with ANVISA’s opinion and grants the patent application, it will send ANVISA a list containing all granted patents and will continue to make this list available to ANVISA (Article 7 of the guidelines).  

The guidelines do not contain any information as to what ANVISA can or should do with the list of granted patents received from INPI.  Actions that ANVISA could take include filing a post-grant opposition or seeking invalidity of the patent before Federal Courts. 

Article 9 of the guidelines creates an Interagency Group between the two agencies. The purpose of this group is to seek to “harmonize” the understanding between the ANVISA and INPI regarding the application of patent law in “polemic” topics such as Markush claiming, selection inventions, the patentability of new uses, salts, polymorphs and antibodies, as well as other issues relevant to the pharmaceutical industry.  One concern is that such “harmonization” could result in an unlawful administrative ban of claims that are currently being allowed INPI. As such, Article 9 gives ANVISA power to influence the INPI in a multitude of ways. 

Additionally, it is important to note that the new guidelines come after several decisions were obtained against ANVISA by various pharmaceutical companies (See our post here) holding that that the agency lacked the statutory authorization to examine patentability requirements under Brazilian law.  After these early decisions were rendered (which held that ANVISA’s prior approval review was restricted solely to the analysis of potential public health issues and not patentability requirements), ANVISA amended its guidelines to include a provision stating that “the granting of patents that do not fulfil the patentability requirements violates public health”. This change was interpreted by the courts as an attempt by the agency to escape the unfavorable case law and avoid the new guidelines.  

As a whole, the guidelines read like an attempt by ANVISA to revive its ability to participate in the examination of pharmaceutical patent applications.  Interestingly, many the associations representing generic companies in Brazil such as ABIFINA and Pro Generics are celebrating the guidelines as a victory for the local industry. 

Continue to watch the BRIC Wall Blog for continuing updates on these new guidelines in Brazil.

This post was written by Lisa Mueller and Roberto Rodrigues Pinho from Licks Attorneys.

 

 

 

Updates to the Brazilian Food and Drug Administration OTC Drug Guidelines

It has been 13 years since the Brazilian Food and Drug Administration (ANVISA) updated the guidelines regulating which drugs can receive over-the-counter (OTC) status. The much-anticipated guidelines, which issued on August 3, 2016 as Rule #98, revoke the previous Rule #138, which was established in 2003. Rule #138 established which drugs could be sold as OTC medications, according to their therapeutic indications. Drugs currently recognized as safe for over-the-counter use under Rule #138 will continue to be categorized as such until a reassessment can be completed and compliance with Rule #98 evaluated; however the new guidelines allow ANVISA to simultaneously reassess the status of currently available OTC drugs while expanding the number of new products available to consumers.

Rule #98 was previously submitted to Public Inquiry #27 on April 8, 2015. According to ANVISA’s report on the public inquiry, the general feedback was that the new rule will have a positive impact on the market, especially with regards to increasing patient’s access to drugs and the recognition of pharmacists’ roles in healthcare. It is expected that Rule #98 will expand the number of OTC drugs in the Brazilian market, which will increase price competition and marketing efforts towards consumers, rather than physicians.

In order to be compliant with Rule #98, drugs must comply with the following seven criteria:

  1. The drug must have been commercially available for a minimum of 10 years (five years in Brazil), as a prescription drug, or five years, as an OTC drug, in countries where regulations are similar to ANVISA.
  2. The drug must exhibit a high level of safety: the causes of the adverse reactions must be well known and easily reversed, the drug must have a low level of toxicity, a safe therapeutic window, and a low level of interactions with other drugs and food.
  3. The clinical condition treated by the drug cannot evolve rapidly, and its symptoms must be easily identifiable by the consumer.
  4. The drug must pose a low risk when used off label or in overdose scenarios.
  5. The drug cannot be indicated for continuous use; rather, it can only be used for a short period of time or a fixed period of time, which must be identified in the drug’s label (except for drugs labeled for prevention).
  6. The consumer must be capable of using the drug without any physical assistance from a healthcare professional.
  7. The drug cannot cause chemical dependency in consumers.

Companies looking to obtain OTC status for a particular drug can do so at any time; status can be applied for with the Marketing Approval Application, or after the drug has already been approved. The OTC status request must be supported by the required documents listed in Rule #98, ensuring compliance with the above-identified criteria. The company must also support its request with a risk reduction plan, which will inform the ANVISA how it will monitor occasional risks arising from the commercialization of the drug as an OTC product. Once the OTC status is approved, the decision will be published by ANVISA in the Official Gazette and be made available online. The publication will include the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) in the drug. Once published, companies will have 180 days to make appropriate amendments to the drug packaging and label, as well as have the product sales status changed to OTC.

Importantly, Rule #98 defines which products are not entitled to receive OTC status, which includes drugs that require parenteral administration, or drugs that are commercially packaged, as the quantity of the API per package exceeds the maximum limits established by ANVISA.

The enforcement of Rule #98 will begin 30 days after its publication on September 3, 2016.  Please continue to check the BRIC Wall Blog for additional updates on the enforcement of these new guidelines in Brazil.

This blog post was written by Lisa L. Mueller, Caitlin E. Mac Nair of Michael Best, Ricardo Campello and Roberto Rodrigues of Licks Attorneys.