[Ip-health] PR: Activists Blast Pharma for Modi Pressure

Matthew Kavanagh matthew at healthgap.org
Tue Sep 30 15:33:15 PDT 2014

Press Statement

For Immediate Release: September 30, 2014

Contact: Matthew Kavanagh, +1 202-486-2488, matthew at healthgap.org

*AIDS & Health Activists Blast American Pharma Companies and Politicians
for Attempts to Undermine India, the “Pharmacy of the Developing World,”
Call on  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Stand Strong Against US
Pressure to Change its Pro-Public Health Patent Laws*

*While India supplies the world with affordable medicines, pharmaceutical
industry manipulation of weak U.S. patent law keeps American drug prices
high. India must not make the same mistake.*

*(Washington, D.C.)* AIDS and health activists today harshly criticized
attempts by major U.S. pharmaceutical companies and American politicians to
pressure and manipulate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who today
meets with members of the US-India Business Council in Washington, D.C.
Activists warned that following American-led policy proscriptions could
severely damage the Indian economy and health system, as well as
restricting access to affordable medicines for patients around the world.
They called on Prime Minister Modi to stand strong against persistent and
unwarranted US pressure to change the country’s pro-public health patent

Indian generic drug manufacturers currently provide India, and much of the
world, with high-quality affordable medicines: 90% of HIV patients in low-
and middle-income countries rely on Indian generics for their treatment,
and 40% of American generic drugs are made by Indian producers. “Indian
generics have been essential to expanding access to medicine around the
world,” said Asia Russell, Health GAP’s Director of International Policy.
“I am based in Uganda, where  expanded access to Indian generics has had a
transformative impact on the HIV epidemic. Around the world, we’ll rely on
Indian generics again for treatment of diseases such as hepatitis C, given
that Indian firms can make generic versions of new treatments 1,000 times
cheaper than what multinational pharmaceutical companies charge in first
world markets.”

Threatened by free trade of high-quality and affordable medicines, US-based
pharmaceutical companies and politicians friendly with the industry are
using prominently placed op-eds, large advertisements on Washington, D.C.
buses, and letters to President Obama to spread false information—claiming
India’s rules are not legal or discourage innovation. The companies have
been threatening to withhold investment if India does not adopt weaker
patent laws that would extend pharmaceutical monopolies and stymie the
country’s generic industry. The bullying has been far-reaching.
In anticipation of the prime minister's visit, Senator Robert Menendez
(R-NJ) said, "we need to see real reforms on [intellectual property], which
significantly impacts the ability of US companies to do business in an
important market." The US Trade Representative listed India on its
“priority watch list” in this year’s Special 301 Watch List, which is
annually published to shame countries with intellectual property
legislation that is not to American businesses and politicians’ liking. As
a result, India may face US trade sanctions. Members of Congress have also
demanded an investigation into what they call India's "IP protectionism."
This is despite India’s intellectual property laws being fully in line with
international standards, as outlined in World Trade Organization agreements.

“India fully complies with international law while also making it possible
for billions of people in India and around the world to access life-saving
affordable drugs,” said Matthew Kavanagh, Health GAP’s Senior Policy
Analyst. “Giving U.S. pharmaceutical companies longer monopolies would help
their bottom line—but at the cost of the Indian economy and the lives of
millions of people.”

India’s pharmaceutical industry has been able to flourish because of the
country’s pro-public health patent laws, in which patents are only granted
on new medicines or for significant changes on old medicines. The U.S., in
contrast, regularly gives out patents on slightly tweaked versions of old
medicines that do not provide enhanced therapeutic benefit, extending
monopoly protection and keeping prices high.

“Whereas the U.S. regularly gives patents on frivolous and small changes to
old medicines, keeping prices high, India has decided to prioritize public
health over pharmaceutical profits,” said Brook Baker, law professor at
Northeastern University and Health GAP analyst. “U.S. companies are
threatening not to invest in India, saying only stronger intellectual
property will drive foreign direct investment and more innovation. But
studies show this simply is not true—middle income countries with extremely
high IP rules see no benefit in investment or research, but they do see far
higher medical costs that undermine their public health systems.

“Rather than shaming India, the US should learn from the country’s use of
intellectual property policy to promote true innovation and equitable
access to medicine,” Baker said.

Already Modi’s administration has shown signs that it may bend to pressure
from US businesses and politicians, who threaten to restrict foreign
investment in India’s booming economy if intellectual property laws don’t
change. The country's Minister of Commerce and Industry, Nirmala
Sitharaman, has initiated a review of India’s IP policy, saying that she
wanted the patent system to become "more robust.”

“Health activists around the world are in solidarity with Prime Minister
Modi,” Kavanagh said. “We’re calling on the Indian government not to bend
to U.S. pressure. Patients around the world are relying on it.”


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