European ban may pose threat to drug sales

Pharmaceutical Representative

The European Union may pass a law that prohibits the import of medicines derived from sheep, goats and cattle, according to Jeffrey Trewhitt, vice president of communications for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Washington.

The European Union may pass a law that prohibits the import of medicines derived from sheep, goats and cattle, according to Jeffrey Trewhitt, vice president of communications for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Washington.

The ban, proposed because of concerns about Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, also known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or mad cow disease, would affect roughly 85% of products exported to Europe by pharmaceutical companies in the United States. The potential economic impact of the ban is $4.5 billion in sales.

"This would affect any product that contained gelatin," Trewhitt explained. Gelatin, a common ingredient in drugs, is composed of the boiled skin, connective tissue and bones of animals, including those included in the proposed ban.

The European Union is the United States largest economic partner, largest investment partner and second-largest trading partner. Total U.S.-European Union trade was $270 billion in 1996. The two-way trade supports about six million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

European Union legislators originally planned to implement the prohibition on Jan. 1, but have postponed the date to April 1 in order to more closely analyze the risk posed by the products.

Risk analysis by PhRMA showed that the risk of acquiring mad cow disease by taking three gelatin capsules every day for one year was one in 100 billion.

The Clinton Administration is concerned about the proposal. American emissaries, representing national trade and commerce departments, were scheduling discussions with legislators in major European cities at press time. They will be discussing alternatives to the blanket ban, such as delegating the choice of embargoing certain products to individual member countries, or prohibiting only specific, high-risk drugs. PR