[Ip-health] MSF: New threat against affordable medicines in trade negotiations with India and ASEAN

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Thu Apr 21 03:00:10 PDT 2016

New threat against affordable medicines in trade negotiations with India


New Delhi/Geneva 21 April, 2016: Access to affordable medicines could be
severely restricted for millions of people around the world under the
current proposals in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
trade agreement, the international humanitarian medical organisation
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned today. MSF sounded the alarm
regarding the potential harmful consequences of the trade deal ahead of the
next round of RCEP negotiations starting in Perth, Australia this Sunday.

“Proposals in the RCEP negotiations are trying to introduce intellectual
property measures far tougher on access to medicines than what is required
under international trade rules”, said Leena Menghaney, South Asia Head of
MSF’s Access Campaign. “If accepted, the agreement would restrict access to
affordable generic medicines for people in many countries that will be part
of the agreement– including Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos
– and for the millions of people around the world who rely on life-saving
affordable generic medicines from India.”

Text from the negotiations’ leaked chapter on intellectual property shows
that Japan and South Korea have made proposals that go beyond what
international trade rules require undermining access to affordable generic

“Many of the intellectual property provisions that have been tabled mirror
those in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, considered the worst
trade deal ever for access to medicines”, said Brian Davies, East Asia Head
for MSF’s Access Campaign. “Countries that did not join the TPP
–particularly India and key members of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) – will be pushed to adopt similar standards in the RCEP

The measures that would harm access to affordable medicines are all the
more concerning given India is one of the countries included in the RCEP
negotiations. India—often known as the ‘pharmacy of the developing world’
for its wide-scale production of generic medicines—supplies life-saving
affordable medicines needed to treat communicable and non-communicable
diseases in developing countries. Two thirds of all the drugs MSF purchases
to treat HIV, TB and malaria are generic medicines from India.

In Perth, India will be under increasing pressure to roll back some of the
hard-fought protections for access to medicines that have been secured by
its negotiators in trade agreements in the past, who have stood firm
against the most harmful provisions—such as extended patent terms and data
exclusivity—which had been proposed but rejected both in the India-Japan
Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, and the ongoing negotiations
for an EU-India Free Trade Agreement.

One of the most damaging measures is data exclusivity, which would act like
a patent to block the entry of more affordable generic medicines to the
market, even for drugs that are already off patent, or do not deserve a
patent to begin with. Other clauses harmful to access to medicines remain
on the table, including extending patent terms, and introducing
controversial aspects of intellectual property enforcement without the
safeguards needed to prevent abuse and protect access to medicines.

“If the measures in this agreement prevent people from getting the generic
medicines they need, the health consequences for any delay or interruption
of treatment for many diseases, like HIV, could be serious”, said Dr Greg
Elder, Medical Coordinator for MSF’s Access Campaign. “97% of the HIV
medicines MSF uses to treat 230,000 people living with the disease are
generics sourced from India. The reality is, without generic medicines, we
wouldn’t be able to treat as many people as we do. We urge Indian and ASEAN
negotiators to make sure the terms of any trade agreement reached do not
impede the supply of generic medicines upon which we and so many people in
developing countries rely.”

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


More information about the Ip-health mailing list