[Ip-health] Campaign On Access To Affordable Trastuzumab: Reactive Statement on release of Report on Price Negotiations for patent drugs by Department of Pharmaceuticals

leena menghaney leenamenghaney at gmail.com
Wed Feb 27 07:41:48 PST 2013

 The Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Commerce has just released
a report by a committee set up to examine the issue of price negotiations
for patented drugs. Comments are being invited from stakeholders. The
report can be downloaded from http://pharmaceuticals.gov.in/

 The Campaign for Access to Affordable Trastuzumab is shocked that the
Department of Pharmaceuticals is even considering the option of negotiating
with multinational pharma companies for price discounts.

We note with concern that this report comes at a time when the Ministry of
Health is actively exploring options such as compulsory licensing for
bringing down prices of life-saving patented drugs through allowing market
competition by generics and biosimilars. Trastuzumab is one of the drugs
being considered for compulsory licensing.

This ill-timed move by the Department of Pharmaceuticals will benefit none
other than big pharma companies whose patents on life-saving drugs are the
main barrier in access to health for millions of Indians.

Global experience shows clearly that measures such as negotiated price
reductions do not result in any significant expansion of access, since
prices continue to remain beyond the reach of most citizens.

A case in point is Brazil, which tried to use price negotiations with
multi-national pharmaceutical companies to bring down the price of patented
HIV drugs. As a result, the price of Efavirenz (Merck) came down to  USD760
per person per year in 2003.  In contrast, when Efavirenz was brought under
compulsory license in 2007, the price came down to USD170 per person per
year, which is less than one fourth the negotiated price.

A donor-supported process of negotiated price decreases in Central America
and the Caribbean in 2002 brought prices of HIV drugs down to USD 1100-1600
per patient per year. In contrast, 10 Latin American countries
independently adopted an open competition-based model involving both
generic manufacturers and originator companies, resulting in prices coming
down from USD 5000 to USD 400 per patient per year.

The Government of Thailand, which began issuing compulsory licences in
2007, considered and dropped the option of negotiated price reductions,
noting that “Prior negotiation with the patent holders is not an effective
measure and only delays the improvement in access to
patented essential medicines and puts more lives in less healthy or
even dangerous situations.”

India plays a key role as a supplier of affordable medicines to other
countries in the global south. Unlike negotiated prices, which apart from
being unacceptably high would apply only in India,  compulsory licensing of
a drug like Trastuzumab would benefit millions of people across the
developing world through global marketing of cheap generic versions.

The Campaign for Affordable Trastuzumab urges the Government of India to
follow through on the strong political will it has shown by initiating the
process of compulsory licensing for Trastuzumab.  With 25,000 new cases of
HER2+ breast cancer being recorded every year with most patients being
young women, there is no time to waste. We look forward to a speedy
notification and an accelerated process to bring biosimilars of Trastuzumab
into the market.

We call on our policy-makers to ensure that big pharma companies do not
continue to hold our health hostage to their greed for profits.

Kalyani Menon

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