[Ip-health] MSF Press Release: As US Trade Representative Arrives in Delhi, MSF Urges India to Stand Strong Against Attack on Affordable Medicines

Shailly Gupta shailly.gupta at geneva.msf.org
Tue Nov 25 03:35:04 PST 2014

New Delhi, 25 November 2014—As US Trade Representative Michael Froman meets
high-ranking Indian officials to likely pressure the government to weaken
its pro-public health patent law, Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans
Frontières (MSF) urged the new Indian Prime Minister to take a strong stand
against weakening a law that has helped millions of people in India and
across the developing world get access to affordable life-saving medicines.

“We rely on affordable medicines produced in India, which is called the
‘pharmacy of the developing world,’ so we are very worried the US Trade
Representative is here in Delhi to try to shut it down,” said Leena
Menghaney, South Asia Manager for MSF’s Access Campaign. “We have been
watching closely in recent months as the US Trade Representative’s office
and pharmaceutical industry officials meet steadily and intensively to try
and pressure India to change its patent law to one that puts corporate
profits over people’s health. The new Prime Minister is in a unique position
of responsibility in global health and we urge him to stand strong against
US pressure so that India can continue to provide affordable medicines to
millions of people in India and beyond.” 


India’s patent law has allowed robust competition among generics producers
to drive medicines prices down, leading to, for example, a 99% reduction in
the price of HIV medicines, from more than $10,000 per person per year in
2000 to roughly $100 today. Access to affordable HIV medicines from India
has been instrumental in the historic scale-up of HIV treatment to more than
13 million people in developing countries today, including nearly one
million in India.  Many governments and treatment providers, such as MSF,
rely on affordable quality generic medicines from India to treat
life-threatening diseases. 


India has faced fierce pressure from the US government and the
pharmaceutical industry as it has made use of public health measures in its
patent law. In March 2012, India issued a ‘compulsory license’ for the
cancer drug sorafenib, which was deemed unaffordable in the country, at
US$5,500 per month. This move allowed generic versions of the drug to be
sold in India, immediately bringing the price down to just $175 per month
and enabling people to access the drug. Through strict criteria in India’s
patent law that outlines what does and does not deserve a patent, India has
avoided granting excessive monopolies to companies for new forms of existing
medicines. Related to this part of the law, in April 2013, India’s Supreme
Court upheld one of the key sections of India’s patent law in a landmark
ruling against pharmaceutical company Novartis. 


Despite the fact that both of these moves were entirely in line with India’s
obligations under World Trade Organization rules, the US government and
pharmaceutical industry have together increased pressure on India to weaken
its law ever since. Specifically, they have lobbied against India’s stricter
patentability criteria; and against the discretion of the Patent Controller
to grant a compulsory license to a competitor to bring down the prices of
medicines that are patented.  The US government has also placed India on the
US ‘Special 301 Watch List’ over objections to the country’s intellectual
property system and has announced an ‘out-of-cycle review’ of India’s
intellectual property system, signaling the threat of sanctions against


“India has been a global leader in ensuring access to medicines in
developing countries, so the world will be watching closely to see whether
the country will cave under US pressure or not,” said Rohit Malpani,
Director of Policy and Analysis at MSF’s Access Campaign. “Several of
India’s BRICS peers like Brazil and South Africa are looking to India’s law
for inspiration as they try to reform their own patent laws to limit abuse
of the patent system in the interest of access to medicines.” 





Shailly Gupta

MSF Access Campaign

K-30, Jangpura Extension

New Delhi – 14





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