[Ip-health] At Obama-Modi meeting in New York, MSF urges India to protect affordable medicines for millions

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Mon Sep 28 04:48:23 PDT 2015

*At Obama-Modi meeting in New York, MSF urges India to protect affordable
medicines for millions *

*MSF displays billboards of ‘Incredible India’ ads with Taj Mahal made of
pills outside Modi’s hotel, Indian consulate*


*New York, 28 September 2015*—As US President Obama and Indian Prime
Minister Modi meet in New York today, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors
Without Borders (MSF) warned that US pressure for India to change its
intellectual property policies could result in millions of people around
the world losing their lifeline of affordable medicines. MSF relies on
affordable generic medicines produced in India to do its medical work in
more than 60 countries, and therefore urged Modi to stand strong and
protect India’s role as the ‘pharmacy of the developing world.’

MSF displayed large billboards on trucks outside of Modi’s hotel and the
Indian consulate in New York with the image of the Taj Mahal made out of
pills and the tagline ‘Incredible India’— a take on the long-standing
Indian tourism advertising campaign.

“We need affordable medicines from India to do our humanitarian work, so we
are not about to let the pharmacy of the developing world be shut down,”
said Dr. Manica Balasegaram, Executive Director of MSF’s Access Campaign.
“The health of millions of people around the world will be affected by the
decisions Prime Minister Modi makes, so we are urging him not to cave in
under overwhelming pressure from the US to change the country’s policies to
favour big pharma interests.”

India’s law sets the bar higher for what deserves a patent than other
countries, filtering out patent applications that cover simple changes to
existing pharmaceutical products, 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 US$10,000 to around

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.

“The multinational pharmaceutical industry is pushing hard to stamp out the
competition from India,” said Leena Menghaney, South Asia Manager of MSF’s
Access Campaign. “India must not accept the US line that intellectual
property, linked to high drug prices, is the only way to bring in
investment; it’s simply not the case.”

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. In the US itself, insurers, treatment
providers and patients have reached a pain threshold with exploitation and
price gouging by the pharmaceutical industry with, for example, cancer
medicines priced at more than $100,000 per patient, new hepatitis C
medicines at $1,000 per pill, and old medicines jumping from $13.50 to $750
per pill, literally overnight.

“We urge Prime Minister Modi not to accept US demands and standards on
intellectual property”, said Menghaney. “Millions of lives are at stake.”

*MSF has been campaigning Prime Minister Modi and President Obama through
social media using #HandsOffOurMeds; for more, visit handsoff.msf.org
<http://handsoff.msf.org/>. *

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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