Israel is set to join the Pharmaceutical Inspection Convention and Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation Scheme (PIC/S), which work to improve and harmonise Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards and quality systems internationally.

PIC/S currently has 34 members, and Israel is set to joint them after representatives of the Scheme reported favourably, on behalf of the European Union (EU), on Israel’s standards of supervision over pharmaceutical manufacturing.

The Israeli Health Ministry said the country’s signing of a mutual recognition agreement with the EU in this area will improve the possibilities for Israeli pharmaceutical exports which, it was reported this week, increased 43% in first-half 2008 to reach $2.22 billion, compared with the same period of 2007, with sales to EU countries rising 32% to more than $337 million.

The biggest increases in Israeli pharmaceutical exports in the six months were to eastern European countries, according to the new figures, which were released by the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Society of the Manufacturers Association of Israel. Sales to Russia increased 250% to $4.4 million, while those to the Czech Republic were up 101% to $23.3 million and exports to Hungary grew 6% to $15.2 million.

Exports to Israel’s biggest overseas market, the USA, rose 43% to $1.65 billion during the period, the Society adds. However, the nation has remained on the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) 2008 Priority Watch List for its perceived inadequate protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). The USTR, Ambassador Susan Schwab, says she is encouraged by recent progress on certain IPR issues but remains “seriously concerned” with Israel’s “inadequate level of protection against unfair commercial use of undisclosed test and other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products, and Israel’s laws that adversely affect the term of pharmaceutical patent protection by effectively reducing the time granted to compensate for delays in obtaining regulatory approval of a drug.”