[Ip-health] MSF: Europe opens new front against affordable medicines in trade deal with India

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Thu Apr 7 03:45:27 PDT 2011

Press release from MSF's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines

*Europe Opens New Front Against Affordable Medicines in Trade Deal With

Move contradicts resolution passed yesterday by European Parliament

Brussels, 7 April 2011 – As free trade agreement talks between Europe and
India resume in Brussels today, the international medical humanitarian
organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is deeply concerned about new
measures Europe is pushing to restrict the production of affordable generic
medicines that MSF and others rely on to treat patients across the
developing world.

“Europe is now trying to negotiate a fast-track way for companies to
challenge health policies and laws in India that support access to
medicines,” said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Director of MSF’s Campaign for
Access to Essential Medicines. “As a medical organisation that relies on
India for the vast majority of medicines we use, we are asking European
governments to stop this relentless attack on people’s access to the
affordable medicines they need to stay alive.”

The EU wants to push for greater intellectual property protection as a part
of the ‘investment chapter’ in the trade deal.  These would allow European
companies to sue the Indian government if they feel their profit, or
‘investment,’ in the country is under threat for example through the
country’s law or policies.  A pharmaceutical company could therefore sue the
Indian government if it decided to override a medicine patent, control the
prices of a patented medicine or take any other action designed to boost
access to more affordable generic versions of a medicine.  These legal
proceedings take place in secret by private arbitration, bypassing the
national courts, and usually involve millions of dollars in damages.

This move stands in stark contrast to a resolution passed just yesterday by
the European Parliament stressing that investment policies in trade
agreements should not harm access to medicines.

 “Again and again, the EU tries to tell us that nothing they are doing will
harm access to affordable medicines, and yet again and again we see their
words directly contradicted by their actions,” said Michelle Childs, Policy
& Advocacy Director at MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.
“While Indian courts have placed public health and access to medicines as
priorities over corporate profits, these principles are unlikely to be
applied when cases are brought by companies in private arbitration panels.
We are asking for the EU not to push for intellectual property in the
investment chapter of this free trade agreement.”

MSF is also asking the EU to confirm it will no longer push for India to
accept ‘data exclusivity’, following the Indian Commerce Minister’s
statement last week that data exclusivity would delay cheaper generic drugs
reaching the market.

“While India has clearly highlighted the harmful effects of data
exclusivity, the EU has continued to push India to accept it,” said Childs.
“It’s time for the EU to make official that it will stop hounding India to
agree to a policy that would block generic drugs from being produced, even
if a drug is not patented.”

Other clauses harmful to access to medicines, such as stronger enforcement
of intellectual property, also remain in the free trade agreement, and MSF
is seeking further clarification from the EU on its position on these

India has been called the ‘pharmacy of the developing world,’ and affordable
medicines produced in India have played a major role in scaling up HIV/AIDS
treatment to over five million people.  More than 80% of the medicines MSF
uses to treat more than 170,000 people living with HIV/AIDS are produced in
India.  MSF also buys medicines to treat other diseases, such as
tuberculosis and malaria, from producers in India.

Joanna Keenan
Press Officer
Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines
Medecins Sans Frontieres


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