[Ip-health] Hindustan Times: India must keep patent laws for manufacture of cheap generic drugs
shailly.gupta at geneva.msf.org
Tue Jul 21 23:58:03 PDT 2015
India must keep patent laws for manufacture of cheap generic drugs
Recently, trade ministers from 10 Asean countries, India, China, Japan,
Australia, New Zealand and South Korea gathered to negotiate a deal on the
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement. But,
RCEP negotiations on intellectual property (IP) are at a standstill because
India and the Asean countries are unwilling to trade away health by adopting
IP provisions that go beyond what is required of them under international
Médecins Sans Frontières and millions of people who rely on cheap India-made
generic medicines are depending on New Delhi to resist pressure to undermine
the public health protections in Indias existing laws. India could build a
robust generic medicines industry before 2005 because it did not grant
product patents on medicines.
When India, under World Trade Organization rules, started granting
pharmaceutical patents in 2005, Indias law makers set the bar high for what
merits a patent in the interest of public health. At the same time, India
introduced public health safeguards which paved the way for continued supply
of affordable generic medicines.
Being a treatment provider, MSF relies heavily on Indian generics to treat
more than 200,000 people living with HIV/AIDS across the world. MSF also
uses Indian generics to treat many other diseases and conditions. As the
world now grapples with an estimated 130-150 million people chronically
infected with Hepatitis C virus (HCV), another revolution for affordable
generic life-saving medicines is needed.
With the arrival of oral HCV drugs direct-acting antivirals (DAAs)
people living with HCV and governments around the world have high
expectations that these medicines can provide effective, non-toxic and
simplified treatment. MSF is starting to treat people with HCV with DAAs in
India and eventually at least eight other countries, and so needs access to
low-cost treatments. But prices for the DAAs can be shockingly high; for
example, the DAA sofosbuvir is as much as $1,000 per tablet in the US.
Yet, broad treatment scale-up with these drugs in developing countries will
be possible only if governments can use the public health safeguards at
their disposal. We must take our cues from history, where the HIV/AIDS
experience showed how critical it was for a number of countries to use
public health safeguards like stricter patentability criteria and/or
compulsory licensing, to manufacture or import affordable generic versions
of HIV medicines.
These same public health safeguards could be on the chopping block if
countries like Japan and other developed countries manage to get India and
ASEAN countries to cave in on the IP negotiations under RCEP. The leaked
RCEP draft text has incorporated some of the most damaging IP provisions
that will put in place far-reaching regulatory and patent monopolies that
would restrict generic competition and keep medicine prices unaffordable for
MSF and for millions of people in the developing world.
MSF has launched the #HandsOffOurMeds campaign to urge the Indian government
to resist external pressure to change its regulatory and patent laws, and to
reject any proposal that undermines generic competition from India. India
must stand strong; millions of lives are on the line.
(Leena Menghaney is Asia Regional Head, Médecins Sans Frontières Access
MSF Access Campaign
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