[Ip-health] News: Telegraph (India)- Foreign bias finger at PMO on cheap drugs

Terri - Louise Beswick Terri at haiweb.org
Thu Sep 9 02:37:31 PDT 2010

Foreign bias finger at PMO on cheap drugs



New Delhi, Sept. 7: Multinational drug companies appear to have used the
Prime Minister's Office to try and influence government policies that
may severely undermine availability of affordable medicines, a group of
non-government organisations has said.


In a joint letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 50 NGOs said the PMO
had asked the ministry of health and the departments of legal affairs
and industrial policy to examine intellectual property rights issues
raised by foreign pharmaceutical companies.


They said the PMO had in July circulated to these departments two notes
on data protection and amendment to patent laws submitted by the
Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI), an association
of foreign companies.


One of the notes seeks data exclusivity, a provision under drug laws
that could effectively block generic versions of medicines from entering
the market by creating a monopoly over clinical trials data, the NGOs
have said.


This demand for data exclusivity is contrary to the Indian Constitution
and Indian laws, they said. "We regret that the PMO circulated this
biased note without prior investigation into the legitimacy of the
claims or the fact that several demands made by the OPPI, US and
European pharmaceutical companies are either sub judice or have been
rejected by Indian courts," the NGOs wrote.


The NGOs - the All India Drug Action Network, the People's Health
Movement, the Naz Foundation, among others - have expressed concern at
what they describe is increasing government susceptibility to
"non-transparent lobbying" by multinational drug companies.


Documents released by the NGOs suggest that the heads of five
multinational pharmaceutical companies, including Ranjit Shahani,
managing director, Novartis, and president of the OPPI, met PMO
officials on May 24 this year.


In the discussions, according to the documents, it was agreed the OPPI
would prepare a paper on enforcement of intellectual property rights,
data protection and capacity building of the judiciary, highlighting the
steps required and submit it to the PMO.


In July, the PMO sent two notes submitted by the OPPI to the ministry of
health and the departments of industrial policy and legal affairs to
examine these issues and give their comments to the pharmaceuticals


A final paper to be co-ordinated by the pharmaceuticals department is
expected to be put up to the PMO. The PMO officials who attended the
meeting were not available for comment.


The NGOs have said the OPPI demands could weaken provisions in India's
patent laws that prohibit patents on minor tweaking of existing drug
molecules, prevent the emergence of generic medicines, and undermine
access to affordable medicines.


"We are also extremely concerned that there are indications that the
OPPI is also attempting to influence the training of judges," the NGOs
have said. Indian courts have in the past upheld sections of Indian
patent law challenged by foreign drug companies.


"This is an issue that concerns patients in India and other developing
countries," said Leena Menghaney, a lawyer who works with the Medicins
Sans Frontiers.



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