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Thursday 7 January 2010

Patricia Covarrubia

Bolivian government creates indigenous pharmaceutical

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The New Herald reports that the Bolivian government will launch a pharmaceutical company with remedies of traditional indigenous medicine. The Health Minister, Ramiro Tapia, informed that they have invested 10 million dollars in this project.

The country already has seen the opening of two ‘intercultural pharmacies’. The pharmacies sell both, common drugs and natural medicines produced from plants and using indigenous knowledge. The pharmacists are also accompanied by healers commonly called ‘kallawayas’.

This decision comes after years of public statements by indigenous groups in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru rejecting intellectual property rights of drug companies because they become richer at the expense of the indigenous resources. They rightly proclaim the defence of their medicinal plants and their ancestral knowledge. (See here and here).

In closing, the protection of indigenous knowledge is something that I support. We perhaps may remember the case when a US university applied for a patent for the use of ‘turmeric’ to heal wounds; or also the case of an American company that sought to register ‘Rooibos’ as a trade mark for tea.

However, we cannot leave aside the importance of the IP system and so, it will be right to educate the Bolivian community on the need of it. Ironically, the government seems to instruct the contrary.

Patricia Covarrubia

Patricia Covarrubia