[Ip-health] MSF: EU/India trade deal could cut medicines lifeline

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Thu Feb 9 23:31:23 PST 2012

As people living with HIV take to the streets in Delhi today, Médecins Sans
Frontières urges the European Union not to push for harmful intellectual
property provisions in the EU/India Free Trade Agreement currently under
negotiation and discussion at the EU/India Summit, starting today in Delhi.

Please find press release below, issued today:


Nearly 2,000 People Living With HIV Rally in Streets of Delhi as EU-India
Summit Starts


*Embargoed until 6.30am CET Friday 10 February

NEW DELHI, 10 February 2012 – As India and the European Union meet for
aSummit in New Delhi today toiron out the differences over aFree Trade
nearly two thousand people living with HIV and the international medical
humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) protested in the
streets of the Indian capital to warn that remaining harmful provisions in
the agreement could have a severely negative impact on access to affordable
medicine for people in developing countries.

“We have watched too many people die in places where we work because the
medicines they need are too expensive,” said Dr. Unni Karunakara,
International President of MSF.  “We cannot allow this trade deal to shut
down the pharmacy of the developing world.”

India produces quality affordable generic medicines that governments, UN
agencies and MSF rely on to treat people across the developing world.
Thanks to competition among generics producers in India, the price of
first-line HIV medicines has dropped by more than 99%, from US$10,000 per
person per year in 2000 to roughly $150 today. This significant price
decrease has supported the massive expansion of HIV treatment worldwide: more
than 80% of the HIV medicines used to treat 6.6 million people in
developing countries come from Indian producers, and 90% of pediatric HIV
medicines are Indian-produced. MSF and other treatment providers also
useIndian generic medicines to treat other diseases and conditions.

“Whether we get to live or die should not be up to trade negotiators,” said
Mundrika Gahlot of the Delhi Network of Positive People. “We’re all here
today with one clear message to India and the EU: Don’t trade away our lives

Existing trade rules already limit the possibility of making generic
versions of new medicines, but the EU-India FTA threatens to make this
situation even worse, by creating new barriers.  At the Summit, both sides
are set to announce ‘trade offs’ in the negotiations, in which the EU has
been pressuring India to agree to several measures that will affect the
production, registration and distribution of affordable generic medicines.  MSF
is particularly concerned about ‘enforcement’ measures being pushed by the
EU that could stop medicines at Indian ports from leaving the country on
their way to patients in other developing countries, and could even draw
treatment providers like MSF into court proceedings.

“What the EU is trying to do with this trade agreement is effectively slow
poison the production of affordable generic medicines in India, which has
helped keep so many people alive,” said Piero Gandini, Head of Mission for
MSF in India. “This trade agreement could target us as treatment
providers, simply
for buying generic medicines from India to treat patients in our programmes.

The protest in Delhi followed similar rallies this week by activists and
people living with HIV in Nepal, Malaysia, the UK, South Africa and Cameroon

-- ends--


Sheila Shettle, MSF +91.(0)98.718.007.23  Shailly Gupta, MSF +91.(0)


Harmful provisions in the EU-India FTA include:


   ‘Enforcement’ measures which could lead to generic medicines being
   prohibited from leaving India on their way to patients in other
   developing countries, on the mere allegation that a patent or trademark is
   being infringed. This could also embroil treatment providers—such as MSF—in
   legal battles simply for providing generic medicines to patients.

   The ‘investment’ part of the FTA would expand companies’ ability to sue the
   Indian government when it regulates health in the public interest, for
   example by overriding a drug patent to increase access to a medicine, or
   through drug price controls. These disputes would be handled outside of
   domestic courts in secret settlement panels, with large sums in
damagesat stake
   . As a result of investment provisions in FTAs between other countries,
   several such disputes have already been filed by corporations against
   governments, in order to force a reversal of public health policies
   (Phillip Morris vs. Uruguay).  Companies claim these policies lead to so
   called “expropriation” of their investments and profits.

   A further measure—so-called ‘data exclusivity’—could effectively block
   generic production even if a patent is not granted or has expired. While
   the EU has stated that they are no longer officially demanding data
   exclusivity, behind closed doors, the EU continues to pressure India to
   change its laws. The EU must keep to its commitment not to put this back
   on the table.

MSF currently provides HIV treatment to 170,000 people in 19 countries.

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