[Ip-health] A doc’s call against patent overdose

Tahir Amin tahir at i-mak.org
Mon Dec 15 13:55:32 PST 2014


 Minor tweaks by pharma cos prevent drugs from becoming generic: Atul
  Mumbai, Dec 15:

jyothi.datta at thehindu.co.in

Public health groups have a supportive voice in American surgeon-author
Atul Gawande in their fight to break “secondary patents” that drug
companies seek on existing medicines.

“The effort by public health organisations to fight ….to break the
secondary patents, I think, is the right fight..even though I’m (from) a
country that’s trying to enforce those kind of secondary patents,” Gawande
told *BusinessLine*, during a whistle-stop India tour in India to promote
his latest book “Being Mortal”.

“You need enough incentive that the drugs can be created and innovation can
happen but then there has to be that release point where it then can go out
into the world as a generic,” says the cancer-surgeon, whose book was among
American President Barack Obama’s recent buys.

“Being Mortal” takes a critical view of treatment beyond medicines and how
ill-prepared doctors are to handle mortality.

“Patents can be respected to allow companies to invest in innovation. But
then when companies create secondary patents where they make a little tweek
that means that the drug is given with a slightly different milligram
dosage or slightly different formulation that you can get a secondary
patent - that prevents it from ever becoming generic and widely available,”
Gawande says, responding to a query on patents and the price monopolies it
could bring in.

His observation comes even as India and the US engage in intense
discussions on patents that give the innovator exclusive rights on an
invention for a period of time.

*Better birth *

On quality issues plaguing locally made medicines, he points out, the
recent death of women during mass sterilisation was “concerning” in many
ways. The mass sterilisation is a concern, use of drugs reportedly of poor
quality and the fact that there was no follow-up to see and catch what was
happening to people, he explains.

“India reminds me of where we were in our industrial revolution in the US.
The creation of our Food and Drug Administration…a very weak body in the
beginning, but had to develop the standards and processes that made sure
…..medications were safe for people,” he says.

The US parallely created pensions for people, as they lived longer and
needed support post 65 years. “As the Indian economy improves that pressure
will start to come, to have a tax-based system, like our social security
system, like pension systems in Europe. That will be a transformative thing
….for the elderly, as well as family. I see these kind of things happening
in India … and I pay attention to them because they strike me as the
patterns of how societies develop and cope with health.”

*Varanasi visit *

Gawande’s India-visit includes filming a documentary in Varanasi based on
the book, besides overseeing a pubic health project in UP. Along with the
Government, World Health Organisation and Gates Foundation, the “Better
Birth” project is about improving survival when women go to facilities to
deliver. “Being Mortal” is about end of life, this is about the beginning
of life, he says.

Tahir Amin
Co-Founder and Director of Intellectual Property
Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK)
*Website:* www.i-mak.org
*Email:* tahir at i-mak.org
*Skype: *tahirmamin
*Tel:* +1 917 455 6601/+1 646 884 7418/+44 771 853 9472

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