[Ip-health] Will Modi give up India’s intellectual property stand just to please Obama?

K.M. Gopakumar kumargopakm at gmail.com
Tue Jan 27 22:09:38 PST 2015

Will Modi give up India’s intellectual property stand just to please Obama?

* by <http://www.firstpost.com/author/> * 57 mins ago

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Amidst the feel-good roadshow of Barrack Obama and Narendra Modi and the
promise of $ 4 billion American investment, something critical to the
survival of India and the rest of the developing world went under the radar
- continuing pressure by America to dilute India's intellectual property
regime that saves the lives of millions of people in India and elsewhere.

In the name of doing more business in India, Obama raised it
yet again, at the CEO's meet on Monday. In response, Modi said that India
was willing to accept the suggestions
of a joint Indo-US working group on intellectual property rights. Its
biggest impact will be on India's health sector.

Modi's promise is the beginning of a dangerous acquiescence to the dictates
of America, which wants India to play by its intellectual property rules,
whereas what India does is absolutely within its rights under the WTO
(World Trade Organisation) framework. America wants to circumvent India's
WTO protection and meddle with its policy environment. In fact, two moves
in the recent past - the constitution of the joint Indo-US working group on
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), and a think-tank to draft a national
IPR policy - appeared to have resulted from US pressure.

][image: Brack Obama with Modi. AFP.]
Brack Obama with Modi. AFP.
The American pharmaceutical industry has been peeved by India's refusal to
allow silly patents and ever-greening (patenting the same drugs with minor
modifications), as well as it exercising its right of issuing compulsory
licences for drugs that are vital for the health of its people. The attack
on India's intellectual property rights became intense after 2012, when the
Indian patent controller allowed local production of an expensive cancer
drug which reduced its price by 97 percent. What perhaps enraged them more
is that just before Obama's visit, the controller refused to grant patent
to American pharmaceutical company, Gilead, for an extremely expensive drug
for hepatitis C. The drug costs $ 1000 a pill in the US, while it can be
produced locally at $ 1 a pill.

While Obama and the Americans repeatedly caution India on its intellectual
property rights regime, what it sweeps under the carpet is the latter's
sovereign right to play by the flexibilities provided by the WTO
<http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/public_health_faq_e.htm>. India
is on a “priority watch list” in America's special 301 report, that
identifies countries which do not provide "adequate and effective"
protection of intellectual property rights or "fair and equitable market
access to United States persons that rely upon intellectual property

National and international civil society organisations and public health
activists have flagged this danger ahead of Obama's visit. In a statement,
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said that the US pressure appears to have
begun to influence Indian patent policy. It said that the government is
delaying the production of the generic version of a prohibitively priced
cancer drug, despite the recommendation of a health ministry expert
committee, and the new draft IP policy by India's IPR Think-Tank is

“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,” MSF
said. “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.”

*Civil society pressure is also coming from America*

 Prior to Obama's visit
several American NGOs engaged in affordable treatment activism, urged him
“to support India's central role in providing high-quality, low-cost
generic medicines - which are essential for health care around the world.”
In a statement addressed to him, they said US policies sought to topple
India's intellectual property regime to advance the interests of
multinational companies. They reminded Obama that India is fully compliant
with WTO TRIPS agreement and that millions around the world, including the
beneficiaries of US funded programmes, depend on Indian generic drugs. “Our
world is safer and healthier because of India's pro-health stance and we
ask you to say so publicly while you are there.”

It's a globally acknowledged fact that India's existing IPR policy regime,
although loathed by the US and the EU, has been a lifesaver for not just
Indians, but also people from other developing countries. In the recent
past, the country has seen how a conducive IPR policy, that doesn't violate
international conventions, can greatly help millions of people who are in
need for urgent modern medical care. The compulsory licensing (breaking the
patent of an MNC company because of domestic medical needs) of a couple of
drugs have brought down their prices manifold and there is demand for more
such decisions from healthcare activists. For instance, cancer drug Glivec,
sold by Swiss Pharma company Novartis for more than Rs one lakh, is now
available in the generic from for about Rs 8,800 and its price is likely to
fall further. US Pharma lobby has been wrongfully going to town against
such decisions saying that India doesn't respect patent and innovation.

Obama's pressure on India betrays his double standards. The man behind the
epochal Affordable Care Act (ACA), that sought to make medical care
accessible to a third of American citizens who are either uninsured or
underinsured, wants to rob Indians of their right to survive. India needs
to be extremely vigilant not to let is growth ambitions overlook the
critical needs of its people.

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