[Ip-health] Ahead of Obama visit, MSF warns US pressure on India could impact access to medicines for millions

Shailly Gupta shailly.gupta at geneva.msf.org
Wed Jan 21 03:01:37 PST 2015


 

 

Ahead of Obama visit, MSF warns US pressure on India could impact access to
medicines for millions

 

-New intellectual property 'think tank' draft policy already showing
alarming trend-

 

New Delhi, 21 January, 2014-Ahead of US President Obama's visit to India,
the international medical humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans
Frontieres/ Doctors Without Borders (MSF) expressed deep concern over the US
government's heightened efforts  to undermine access to affordable medicines
from India-often called the 'pharmacy of the developing world.' Millions of
people across the globe rely on Indian low-cost generics, just as MSF relies
on these to carry out its medical work.

 

The US has been scaling up pressure on India and increasing visits to the
country over the last several months in order to aggressively campaign
against India's patent law. The country's law sets a high bar for what
merits a patent in an effort to prevent abusive pharmaceutical patenting
practices, such as 'evergreening,' which put profit over public health by
blocking production of more affordable generics. The US is pushing for India
to adopt intellectual property (IP) measures similar to those common in the
US and EU, which would ultimately result in unaffordable medicine prices for
both India and the countries that rely on affordable medicines made in
India. 

 

"The alarm bells should be going off for the new Indian government," said
Dr. Manica Balasegaram, Executive Director of MSF's Access Campaign.  "The
US is pushing India to play by its rules on intellectual property, which we
know will lead to medicines being priced out of reach for millions of
people." 

 

US pressure already appears to be having an impact: the new Indian
government has been delaying a decision to allow generic production of an
exorbitantly-priced patented anti-cancer medicine that is unaffordable in
the country-an action recommended by a Health Ministry expert committee to
increase access to affordable versions. A 'compulsory licence' issued by the
Patent Controller in 2012 for an unaffordable cancer drug brought its price
down by 97% almost instantly. 

 

Also in response to US pressure, the Indian Commerce Minister in November
set up a high-level 'think tank' to draft national IP policy. First draft of
the policy recently released is alarming. The draft emphasises patent
monopolies as the key driver of innovation, when such claims have been
refuted by numerous studies, and experts at the World Health Organization,
which have found IP in fact to be a barrier to both access to affordable
medicines, and innovation for medicines desperately needed by developing
countries for diseases such as TB. 

 

"We need the Indian government to pay very careful attention to what the US
is up to right now," said Rohit Malpani, Director of Policy and Analysis of
MSF's Access Campaign. "India has been a leader in promoting access to
affordable medicines and new innovation models, but this could all unravel
very fast if the Indian government caves into US pressure. The think tank so
far seems to be singing to Big Pharma's tune of undermining global efforts
to finally overhaul today's system of how medicines are developed and
priced." 

 

At the same time, the Obama visit comes in the wake of a critical decision
by India's Patent Controller to deny a patent to pharmaceutical company
Gilead for the hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir-an example of how important
India's law is to encouraging price-lowering generic competition. The drug
is priced in the US at US$84,000 for a three-month treatment course ($1,000
per pill), although studies estimate its production for a three-month course
could be as low as $101 (about $1 per pill). The UK's National Health
Service is delaying introduction of the drug because of its cost, and
protests have erupted in Spain over the drug's rationing as a result of its
price. 

 

Unsurprisingly, discontent is already being expressed and the patent
rejection is likely to be brought up by US officials accompanying President
Obama.  

 

"India's decision to reject the patent for the hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir
could unleash fierce competition among Indian companies to launch affordable
versions of the life saving drug this year. Let the exorbitant prices being
charged for this hepatitis C drug in many countries serve as a cautionary
tale to India-this is what could happen here if the US succeeds and gets
India to change its policies. India now faces a challenge: future access to
essential medicines for millions of people will depend on the new Indian
government's decisions and the kind of patent and innovation system it
endorses," said Leena Menghaney, South Asia Manager of MSF's Access
Campaign. 

 

 

 

Shailly Gupta

MSF Access Campaign 

AISF Building, First Floor

Lajpat Nagar IV

New Delhi - 110024

Ph: +91-9899976108 

Skype : shailly.17 

 

 




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