[Ip-health] UK Independent Newspaper - Two great articles on FTA threat
Diarmaid at aidsconsortium.org.uk
Thu Feb 9 17:12:11 PST 2012
Two great articles in the UK Independent newspaper today on the EC attack on affordable medicines. The first by Paul Vallely strongly laying out our case. The second a powerful opinion piece by Sir Elton John who has raised the FTA with David Cameron in the past, reiterates his opposition and calls on the UK to act:
"I've battled for many years to see progress in the Aids response. I don't want to see those achievements thrown away. This is a critical moment. The Government must stand up for the rights of people living with HIV and the health of the world's most vulnerable by stopping this EU attack on the vital Indian supply of essential medicines.
We cannot allow Europe's greed to triumph over the needs of HIV patients around the world."
Both are copied below. Please forward, tweet and retweet!
With many thanks to all who worked on these.
Good luck today on the streets - let's keep up the pressure!
EU drive to protect drug firms puts fight against Aids at risk
Trade agreement with India could put life-saving generic medicines beyond the reach of millions
The cheap supply of antiretroviral drugs to people with Aids across the world could be choked by an "intellectual property" deal, which the European Union will today demand at a high-level international summit, Aids campaigners say.
More than 80 per cent of those on HIV treatment in developing countries are on generic medicines made in India. But those drugs are under threat from an agreement being negotiated at the 12th EU-India summit in New Delhi between the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. The EU has long been seizing supplies of the drugs as they transit through Europe on their way from India to Africa. Now, under a new EU-India Free Trade Agreement, it wants the country nicknamed "the pharmacy of the developing world" to impose lengthy delays in the production of affordable generic versions of vital medicines.
It also wants to hamper the export of these medicines to the developing world, according to the Stop Aids Campaign, a coalition of more than 60 lobby groups including Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières and the Elton John Aids Foundation.
The EU trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, has denied this, saying "any agreement will have no impact on the right or the capacity of India to produce generic medicines". But while a number of damaging demands have been taken off the negotiating table, other measures relating to enforcement and investment remain. Enforcement provisions are required, said Mr De Gucht, to control fake medicines – though there have been no significant reports of fake medicines at large in anti-Aids treatment.
One European lobby group, Act Up-Paris, says leaked text from the negotiations reveal that one EU demand would give European multinational companies the right to challenge the Indian government for any health policies it undertakes, such as price controls or tobacco warnings on cigarette packets, if they are deemed negatively to affect foreign investments. Anna Marriot, head of development finance at Oxfam, said: "Similar terms to those Europe is trying to impose on India have already been imposed on other developing countries. The results have been more expensive medicines, less availability and worse health outcomes. If Europe succeeds, the health of millions of Indians and millions more across the developing world will be put at risk."
Other matters in the Free Trade Agreement concern tariffs on cars, wines and spirits imported to India. India also wants better access to the EU's services market for its high-skilled IT experts.
The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations insists India's drugs are not under threat. But UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids, disagrees. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Anand Grover, says it is "colossal mistake to introduce data exclusivity in India". The Indian government has pledged to resist Europe's demands.
Lifeline for Africa: Indian generic drugs
India is a leading manufacturer of generics or cheap copies of branded – and sometimes prohibitively priced – drugs. The size of the country's generics industry is estimated at more than $20bn (£12bn), including exports, according to figures quoted in The Lancet last year.
But the headline numbers only tell part of the story. In some areas, such as HIV/Aids, Indian generics are a lifeline for sufferers in poorer countries. In 2001, for example, the industry attracted headlines when the one of country's largest drug firms, Cipla, offered an Aids drug to African countries for $300. The same preparation cost $12,000 in US, according to Deutsche Bank.
India is also a key supplier of cheap drugs to treat cancer and heart disease.
Sir Elton John: We must end the greed of these corporations
Remember Stella? No? Well, let me remind you. On World Aids Day in 2010 when I was guest editor of The Independent I chose a story to lead the paper about four-year-old Stella Mbabazi who became HIV-positive in her mother's womb. She had not died. Indeed she, and many like her in rural Uganda, was thriving thanks to a cheap supply of antiretroviral drugs from India.
The cost of those drugs had fallen from nearly $500 a year to just $70 – thanks to the growth of the generic drugs industry in India. It meant that international donors could help Stella and four million other HIV-positive people in the developing world.
But there was a grave threat to little Stella. Half a world away, European Union bureaucrats in Brussels were preparing for trade talks with India. One of the things the EU wanted was to increase the protection of the intellectual property rights and commercial interests of European pharmaceuticals giants. They called it "data exclusivity".
Now that threat is coming to pass. In a high-level summit in Delhi today officials from the EU will try to force India into accepting restrictions on its generic medicine industry that would mean delays of up to 10 years in delivery of generic versions of new, improved medicines and up to 15 years in the case of paediatric versions of the same drugs. This is an attack on the health of the world's poor motivated by the aggressive demands of profit-hungry multinational pharmaceutical companies.
The British Government must step in and stop the EU attack. The UK has a proud record on international development and access to medicines. In that same issue of The Independent the Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said: "It's important that companies are able to put in place protection for their intellectual property but this must not have a negative impact on public health. The level of protection should be tailored to ensure that much-needed drugs are available in the poorest countries."
The Government must now act to fulfil that pledge. I raised this issue with Prime Minister David Cameron when I met with him early last year. He assured me that access to medicines would not be undermined by this agreement. But I have heard from colleagues in India that the terms that we are most concerned about are still being pushed by EU negotiators. I've battled for many years to see progress in the Aids response. I don't want to see those achievements thrown away.
This is a critical moment. The Government must stand up for the rights of people living with HIV and the health of the world's most vulnerable by stopping this EU attack on the vital Indian supply of essential medicines.
We cannot allow Europe's greed to triumph over the needs of HIV patients around the world.
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