[Ip-health] President Obama travels to India bearing broken promises on access to medicines

Asia Russell asia at healthgap.org
Fri Nov 5 16:26:33 PDT 2010


Health GAP (Global Access Project)

For Immediate Release: November 5 2010

For more information contact: Asia Russell +1 267 475 2645, asia at healthgap.org

                                                Matthew Kavanagh +1  
202 486 2488, matthew at healthgap.org

                                                Prof. Brook K. Baker   
+1 617 259 0760, b.baker at neu.edu

President Obama Travels to India Bearing Broken Promises on Access to  
Generic AIDS Medicines

Why Is the U.S. Lobbying for Intellectual Property Rights That Will  
Drive Up the Cost of AIDS Drugs?

(Washington DC) President Obama travels today to India for the first  
time since his election, arriving on November 6. His trip will feature  
high-level meetings organized by powerful U.S. and European corporate  
interests, including an address to the U.S.-India Business Council, a  
corporate interest group hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that  
includes all major multinational pharmaceutical companies among its  
members. U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Suresh Kumar confirmed  
last week on the sidelines of a business conference that securing more  
restrictive intellectual property rights for U.S. companies was a key  
U.S. demand. He said, “[the US is] lobbying to do here, to protect  
international property rights, to protect our patents.”[i]

Civil society organizations in the U.S. and India are gravely  
concerned that President Obama is seeking policies that will undermine  
access to affordable Indian generics. Low cost, generic versions of  
AIDS medicines made by Indian manufacturers represent approximately  
80% of medicine purchases by the US and other donors—creating hundreds  
of millions of dollars in cost savings that would ensure more people  
can obtain life saving treatment.[ii] The U.S., through the bilateral  
AIDS program PEPFAR, is the largest procurer of generic AIDS medicines. 

The White House is pressuring India to ratchet up protection of  
intellectual property rights, despite the critical role India plays in  
keeping global AIDS treatment budgets as low as possible for U.S.  
programs. In May 2010, the United States Trade Representative (USTR)  
released its annual "Special 301 Report," listing countries that USTR  
claims are not sufficiently protecting intellectual property. India  
was given "Priority Watch List" status, in part because India's laws  
require patented medicines to show actual increased effectiveness—a  
public health policy that prevents Big Pharma from “evergreening”  
patents. Patent evergreening has been shown to result in increased  
medicine prices in the U.S. and Europe, without benefitting patients.

Activists are concerned that influence on the White House by the  
pharmaceutical lobby will result in higher medicine prices—at the same  
time President Obama is refusing to allocate increased funding for  
cash-strapped AIDS programs.

For example, one year before the release of the 2010 Special 301  
Report, the US-Indian Business Council also criticized India's law on  
the "scope of patentability" of medicines, in a report released in  
June 2009. This report was circulated when USTR Ron Kirk traveled to  
India for the first time; Kirk attended the meeting where the report  
was launched.

The U.S. as well as European countries are also challenging India to  
grant monopoly protection to the data that drug companies use to  
obtain regulatory approval for a medicine. This measure, called "data  
exclusivity," would undermine cost cutting generic competition by  
delaying the entry of generics to market. Data exclusivity is not  
required by the World Trade Organization—but pharmaceutical companies  
have pushed aggressively for it. India's refusal to create a regime of  
data exclusivity was another feature of its Special 301 Report listing.

"As a candidate, Obama made a promise in writing to defend the right  
of countries to prioritize public health and access to medicines,  
above the commercial interests of pharmaceutical companies," said Asia  
Russell of Health GAP. "He is breaking that promise. As a result,  
India's ability to make low cost, generic versions of newer medicines  
is under threat, and U.S.-funded AIDS treatment programs will be  
forced to waste money procuring more costly medicines. Obama should  
reconsider this wrongheaded position."[iv]

At a public consultation held in Washington, D.C. on October 28 with  
the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, experts from  
around the world testified that the U.S.’s pressure on India will have  
major impact on drug prices throughout the world. “India is often  
called the pharmacy to the developing world,” noted Matthew Kavanagh  
of Health GAP. “If the U.S. gets its way in India it will mean new  
AIDS drugs will again be out of reach for communities most in need in  
Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Health GAP has filed a complaint with the U.N., along with public  
health groups from throughout the world, alleging the Special 301 List  
violates the international right to health as well as WTO rules  
requiring multilateral dispute resolution. Full testimony from the  
consultation and the complaint is available at www.healthgap.org/UNComplaint 
. Other examples of Obama Administration pressure on India include  
measures to:

• Finalize a US-India Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with  
provisions that would prevent capital controls. Such controls have  
been shown to dampen speculation and currency inflation that in turn  
increase the price of its exported medicines. The BIT would also allow  
Big Pharma to make unlimited investments aimed at taking over the  
Indian generic industry and would allow transnational corporations to  
directly sue India for regulations and actions that impact their  
expectation of monopoly profits;
• Increase intellectual property enforcement measures that could  
interrupt the trade and transit of legitimate generic medicines  
destined for foreign countries;

• Garner public support in India for heightened intellectual property  
protections and increased enforcement; and to

• Train patent examiners and judges to decide favorably on patent  


[i] Economic Times, “US Lobbying for Strong IPR Regime in India,”  
October 26 2010.

[ii] See Holmes, C. et al., “Use of Generic Antiretroviral Agents and  
Cost Savings in PEPFAR Treatment Programs,” Journal of the American  
Medical Association.

[iii] See Waning, B. et al., "A lifeline to treatment: the role of  
Indian generic manufacturers in supplying antiretroviral medicines to  
developing countries," Journal of the International AIDS Society,  
2010, 13:35, available at http://www.jiasociety.org/content/13/1/35

[iv] “Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that people in developing  
countries living with HIV/AIDS should have access to safe, affordable  
generic drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. They will break the stranglehold that  
a few big drug and insurance companies have on these life-saving  
drugs.  They support the rights of sovereign nations to access quality- 
assured, low-cost generic medication to meet their pressing public  
health needs under the WTO’s Declaration on Trade Related Aspects of  
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).” See: Barack Obama and Joe  
Biden: Fighting HIV/AIDS Worldwide:www.barackobama.com/pdf/issues/FactSheetAIDS.pdf

Asia Russell
Health GAP (Global Access Project)
email: asia at healthgap.org
tel:	+256 776 574 729 (Uganda)
     	+256 703 574 729 (Uganda)
     	+1 267 475 2645 (US)

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