[Ip-health] Wall Street Journal: Will a U.S.-India Working Group do the Bidding of the Pharma Industry?

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Oct 9 03:03:54 PDT 2014



1:34 pm ET
<http://blogs.wsj.com/pharmalot/category/intellectual-property/>Will a
U.S.-India Working Group do the Bidding of the Pharma Industry?


After a meeting last week between President Barack Obama
<http://topics.wsj.com/person/O/barack,-obama/4328> and the recently
elected Indian Prime Minister Narenrda Modi, the White House issued a
included a brief passage saying a new “high level” working group on
intellectual property was being created.

The statement prompted concern from advocacy groups that closely track the
contentious interplay between access to affordable medicines and
pharmaceutical patents. In their view, the initiative may become a tool for
pressuring India to change its approach to patent law

Why? India is something of a pharmacy to the world, because so many generic
drug makers are based there. Moreover, India has also irked brand-name drug
makers with laws and court rulings that have made it easier for their
generic rivals to sell lower-cost, copycat versions of their medicines.

This has generated concern in Washington. The U.S. Trade Representative
regularly places India on its priority watch list
countries that fail to sufficiently protect and enforce patent rights. And
last month, members of Congress asked
<http://waysandmeans.house.gov/uploadedfiles/signed_itc_india_letter.pdf> the
International Trade Commission for a second report on India’s trade
policies, which they argue discriminate against U.S. exports and investment.

To patient advocates, the White House statement was reminiscent of other
efforts where they claim access to medicines clashed with industry
interests.  As an example, they point to the Trans-Pacific Partnership
trade talks in which documents leaked two years ago suggesting the U.S.
Trade Rep was pushing for measures that would benefit global brand-name
drug makers at the expense of ensuring access to high-priced medicines.
Advocates have complained the talks have lacked transparency.

“The US has created IP working groups and other trade working groups in the
past,” Brook Baker, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law
and a senior policy analyst for Health GAP, an advocacy group, writes us.
“And in each instance, the working groups, which include advisors who
strongly favor stronger US-style patent… protections for medicines, push
for longer, stronger, and broader intellectual property protections and
intellectual property enforcement measures.

“The U.S. government is on record, both in trade agreements and in its
annual [priority] watch list, that it opposes India’s strict standards on
pharmaceutical patents.  The U.S. pharmaceutical fox will be in the India
hen house protecting the U.S.’s pharmaceutical giants instead of poor
patients in India and elsewhere who need access to more affordable

Adds Jamie Love of Knowledge Ecology International, a non-profit that
tracks patent and access issues: “The United States likes to set up formal
mechanisms to deliver superpower pressure on behalf of lobbyists… Patient
groups in India should be concerned about this committee.”

To what extent such concerns will be confirmed remains to be seen. Modi has
been in office only a few months and his election presents U.S. officials
with an opportunity to form new relationships and understanding about trade
issues. His stance toward these matters is uncertain, although in speeches
in New York before his meeting with Obama, Modi promised that India is open
for business

A spokesman for the U.S. Trade Rep sent us this: “The U.S. and India both
want to strike the right balance on intellectual property issues. This
working group is an opportunity to do so. Ensuring IP protections is vital
to keeping in place the incentives for the development of new, life-saving
medicine. We are committed to doing everything we can to promote both
innovation and access to medicine.”

He adds that the working group will be convened “as a regularized channel”
under the auspices of the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum
which trade officials from both countries attempt to resolve various issues.

We also asked the Prime Minister’s office in India for a response and will
update you accordingly.

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