Intellectual Property Protection
There is no legal protection for pharmaceutical products in Qatar, and no sign that the Government is working to effect a patent law, despite some recent progress on copyrights and trademarks. This is in marked contrast to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) neighbors, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which both have patent laws offering a basic level of protection to pharmaceuticals.
The market is dominated by the Government sector, which is prone to buying unauthorized (pirate) copies of new products, including top-selling U.S. pharmaceuticals in a number of therapeutic categories. One U.S. pharmaceutical company representative who raised the patent piracy issue was told by a Ministry of Health representative that "patents don't interest us" and "we will buy from the cheapest [source]."
The Government continues to purchase pirate copies of U.S.-patented products from Indian, Jordanian, and Egyptian companies, creating a potentially volatile market for American pharmaceutical products.
During the past two years, at least one U.S. company experienced a major export loss when the Ministry of Health substituted a top selling product with a regionally produced pirate copy. This was done within months of assurances to U.S. Embassy representatives that the Ministry of Health would not purchase pirate products, and would take intellectual property rights into its procurement decisions. While there is a desire to purchase quality products, budgetary pressures and poor forecasting can lead to procurement of "cheap" pirate products as a financial "short cut." U.S. companies have pointed out that subsequent laboratory testing of these pirate products has shown them to be substandard or out of specification, raising questions about the true "savings"-- and risks posed to patients.
Potential Exports/Foreign Sales
PhRMA estimates annual piracy losses to U.S. companies in the range of $10 million to $15 million, with additional losses of an undetermined amount from tender awards.
PhRMA is concerned that the combination of a lack of patent protection and uneven healthcare budgeting contributes to a volatile market situation. Over the past few years, there have been several documented examples where the MOH has purchased pirate copies of U.S. pharmaceuticals.