[Ip-health] MSF launches global campaign urging India to protect access to affordable medicines

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Thu Jun 11 07:02:10 PDT 2015

*Please support the #HandsOffOurMeds campaign here! http://handsoff.msf.org
<http://handsoff.msf.org> *

*MSF launches global campaign urging India to protect access to affordable
*Millions of people in developing countries could be affected if India
caves in to pressure*


*New Delhi/Geneva, 11 June 2015*—The international medical humanitarian
organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) today
launched a global campaign urging Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to
stand strong in the face of intensifying pressure from the United States,
Japan, Switzerland and the European Union to change India’s laws and
policies in ways that would severely restrict the country’s ability to
produce affordable medicines, upon which millions of people around the
world rely.

MSF launched the campaign as the eighth round of negotiations for the RCEP
(Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) trade agreement were taking
place in Kyoto, Japan, which contains harmful proposals that would
undermine access to medicines.

More than 80% of the medicines MSF uses to treat over 200,000 people living
with HIV in its projects are Indian generics, and MSF sources essential
medicines from India to treat other diseases, including tuberculosis and
malaria. India also produces affordable versions of medicines for
non-communicable diseases, now considered too expensive even for healthcare
systems in developed countries.

“As doctors who have been relying on affordable medicines and vaccines made
in India to do our work, we cannot afford to stand by silently as the tap
of life-saving drugs gets turned off for people in our projects and
beyond”, said Dr Joanne Liu, International President of MSF. “We want to
send India a strong message of support as the world is watching anxiously
to make sure it remains the ‘pharmacy of the developing world.”

India’s law sets the bar higher than other countries for what does and does
not deserve a patent, in the interest of public health. This has allowed
the robust generic competition to continue that has, for example, resulted
in the price of a basic HIV treatment combination dropping by 99% over the
course of a decade, from over $10,000 to around $100.

Through the RCEP negotiations, Japan is seeking to put in place several
damaging provisions, all of which go beyond India’s obligations under
international trade rules. They would allow companies to perpetually extend
their monopolies by making modifications to existing medicines, a common
pharmaceutical industry practice known as ‘evergreening.’ Further measures
would allow companies to get a de-facto monopoly through the backdoor—even
for drugs that do not merit a patent under India’s law—by restricting the
ability of the drug regulatory authority to register generic drugs, unless
expensive and unethical clinical trials are replicated, so-called ‘data

Bilateral trade agreements under negotiation with the EU and *European Free
Trade Association (*EFTA) —which also contained harmful provisions for
access to medicines—had been stalled for years following intense push back
from Indian negotiators and civil society, but talks are rumoured to be
starting again soon.

The US government, backed strongly by its pharmaceutical lobby, is not only
pressuring India to dilute its patentability standards but has been
persistently pushing India to implement a drug regulatory system which
essentially links registration of medicines to their patent status (patent
linkage), and the Indian Ministry of Health appears to be seriously
considering such changes.

“We have been working tirelessly for a decade and a half to make sure India
can continue to be a lifeline for millions of people around the world who
rely on affordable medicines to stay alive and healthy”, said Leena
Menghaney, South Asia Director for MSF’s Access Campaign. “We shudder at
the thought that we could lose everything and the multinational
pharmaceutical industry could succeed in gutting generic competition from
India so that profit reigns above people’s lives.”

In 2006, Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis notoriously took the Indian
government to court in an effort to change the country’s patent law, after
the company was denied a patent on a cancer drug. The company lost its
challenge in India’s Supreme Court seven years later, in a landmark ruling
in April 2013. Nevertheless, the US, EU, Switzerland and now Japan are
renewing efforts to push back against India’s laws and policies that make
full use of public health flexibilities in international trade rules to
increase access to affordable generic medicines.

“Don’t trade away lives in the face of international pharmaceutical
companies’ pressure, Prime Minister Modi,” said Menghaney.

- ends -
For more information or for interviews, please don't hesitate to contact me
on +41 79 203 1302 or via email, joanna.keenan at geneva.msf.org (please don't
hit 'reply' on this email).

Kind regards


*Joanna Keenan*
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
P: +41 22 849 87 45
M: +41 79 203 13 02
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: @joanna_keenan


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