[Ip-health] pharmabiz: NGOs call upon Indian govt to reject US pressure on economic policies including CL on life-saving drugs

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Jul 16 03:12:47 PDT 2013


NGOs call upon Indian govt to reject US pressure on economic policies
including CL on life-saving drugs

Ramesh Shankar, Mumbai

Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

A coalition of over 75 civil society groups in the country, under the
banner of Forum Against Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in India, has called
upon prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh to review its forthcoming economic
engagements with the USA, and to reject pressure from the US government and
business lobby groups on India’s economic policies, including its recent
decision to allow compulsory licensing for life-saving drugs.

In an open letter to the prime minister, against the backdrop of the
US-India Business Council (USIBC) Leadership Summit held in Washington on
July 11, 2013, the Forum demanded that the government should not jeopardise
its capacity to generate employment through domestic manufacturing, provide
affordable medicines to millions and revive the rural economy.

The civil society groups's response in this regard comes in the backdrop of
the fact that some of India’s key policy decisions to fulfill its
developmental priorities such as compulsory licensing for life-saving drugs
are being opposed by the US business groups.

US business’ attempts to force India to change its policies on intellectual
property rights (IPR) are a threat to the availability of affordable
high-quality medicines for poor patients in India and other developing and
least developed countries. This is even more surprising given the US
administration itself has proposed steps to limit so-called ‘evergreening’–
abusive practices used to extend intellectual property monopolies and
keeping prices high for as long as possible. Under India’s World Trade
Organisation (WTO) TRIPS' commitment India has the right to use legal tools
available in TRIPS flexibilities. Compulsory licenses (CLs) are such
legally recognised means to overcome barriers in accessing affordable
medicines under international trade rules, the Forum in its letter said.

The NGOs in its open letter said that through CLs India could allow generic
production of medicine ‘sorafenib tosylate’ to treat kidney and liver
cancer patients at the cost of Rs. 8,800 per month (approximately US$175),
while the same patented medicine produced by German company Bayer at the
cost of Rs. 2,80,000 per month (approximately US$5,500).

India is also well within its legal rights to set a higher patentability
threshold to limit the practice of ‘evergreening’. Recently, the Supreme
Court of India upheld the decision to reject patent application of
Novartis. India is completely within its obligation under the TRIPS
Agreement to curb the multiple patenting of known substance. The current US
stance tramples upon the privilege of the Indian government, judiciary and
legislature, the civil society groups in the letter said.

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