[Ip-health] Why Narendra Modi’s US visits make the sick and poor in India anxious

Patralekha Chatterjee patralekha.chatterjee at gmail.com
Tue Jun 7 05:47:16 PDT 2016


Hi

Here is a piece I did for the website of Gateway House, a Mumbai-based
think-tank. Please feel free to share.

http://www.gatewayhouse.in/please-ipr-policy-pleases-none/

Thanks
Patralekha

On Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 6:10 PM, K.M. Gopakumar <kumargopakm at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Why Narendra Modi’s US visits make the sick and poor in India anxious
>
> Each time Prime Minister Narendra Modi
> <http://www.firstpost.com/topic/person/narendra-modi-profile-20711.html>
> prepares to engage with the US, public health activists and observers in
> India get really anxious. And it’s happening yet again as Modi sets foot on
> American soil for a packed, three-day state visit.
>
> The anxiety of public health specialists is not without reason and it’s not
> restricted to India alone, but also across the developing world. The fear
> is that if Modi capitulates to US pressure on India’s Intellectual Property
> Rights (IPR) regime, which it has been overtly and covertly exerting for
> years, it will make many lifesaving drugs unaffordable. Not just in India,
> but in most poor countries because India is the main pharmacy for the
> entire developing world.
>
> The reason to peg this concern to a high level India-US diplomatic
> engagement is historic.
>
> Although India’s trade and strategic conversations with the US are not all
> about pharmaceuticals, even a marginal mistake on the latter can be too
> costly for the country. Among a host of other negotiations, Big Pharma in
> the US, through several lobbying arms have been trying to water down
> India’s IP policy to suit their interests. They want India to freely issue
> patents for their drugs, even if they don’t qualify according to Indian IP
> laws or involve unfair practices such as ever-greening, so that they can
> sell them at whatever prices they choose and prevent Indians from making
> generics. They also don't want India to use its legitimate right to issue
> compulsory licenses to drugs that are critical to the health of the people
> of India as allowed by TRIPS.
> [image: File image of Barack Obama and Narendra Modi. PTI]
>
> File image of Barack Obama and Narendra Modi. PTI
>
> Although the Government of India has clarified early this year that it
> hadn't promised the US that it wouldn’t issue compulsory licences, the
> Indian position is still not totally transparent for a number of reasons.
>
> First, it is a strange India-US policy group. The Government of India had
> constituted an India-US “annual high-level Intellectual Property (IP)
> Working Group with appropriate decision-making and technical-level
> meetings” after Modi’s visit to the US in 2014. This decision allowed the
> US a role in influencing India’s sovereign rights. A real foot-in-the-door
> policy.
>
> The details of the deliberations of this WG are unknown. But that the group
> came into existence in the wake of a joint letter by the US Senate and
> House Committees to the US International Trade Commission (USITC) which
> said that "India has not yet taken action to fully and effectively protect
> and enforce copyrights…, particularly against innovative US pharmaceutical
> companies, so as to advantage its domestic industries” has been
> disconcerting.
>
> Then came the denial of patent to pharmaceutical giant Gilead for its
> Hepatitis C drug Sofosbuvir and its subsequent revocation. The application
> was originally rejected by the Indian patent office in 2015, but was
> accepted early this year. Media reports said there was intense pressure
> from the government on the patent office to grant a patent for this
> prohibitively expensive drug. Had the 2015 decision stayed, Indian
> companies could have manufactured the drug locally and made it available at
> a fraction of its original cost. In the US, the drug costs abut US $84,000
> for a 12-week course. In a bid to probably avert further pressure from
> Indian activists and companies, Gilead subsequently made it available at a
> cheaper price in India through a voluntary licencing agreement with Indian
> companies.
>
> In 2016, the patent office also rejected the application from a Hyderabad
> based company, Lee Pharma, for a compulsory license for an important
> diabetics drug Saxagliptin, originally manufactured by AstraZeneca. The
> grounds for compulsory licensing — that “the reasonable requirements of
> public with respect to the patented invention have not been satisfied, or
> that the patented invention is not available to the public at reasonably
> affordable price, or that the patented invention is not worked in the
> territory of India” as stipulated by the Indian patent law were not
> accepted, although the drug was not available widely at affordable prices.
> Activists saw this also as a bad sign of forfeiting the country’s IPR
> sovereignty.
>
> Finally, the timing of the new IPR policy that the government had finalised
> recently also showed that India was yielding to pressure from the US.
> According to Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the policy was finalised
> well in time for Modi’s visit. Intellectual property rights lawyer KM
> Gopakumar wrote about the new policy in *Economic and Political Weekly*
> <
> http://www.epw.in/journal/2016/21/commentary/why-new-ipr-policy-inadequate.html
> >:
> “Even though the policy contains certain measures to protect public
> interest, these measures can get undermined during implementation of the
> policy due to the overall thrust on IP generation and commercialisation
> without adequately recognising India’s socioeconomic imperatives. One of
> the unstated reasons for putting together the policy is to ease pressures
> from the US to deliver on IP awareness, service orientation of the Patent
> Office and IP generation. Thus the policy bears the danger of further
> increasing the pressure instead of minimising it.”
>
> Leena Menghaney, South Asia head of MSF's Access Campaign minced no words
> when she said in a statement: “It’s outrageous that the US is trying to
> export its broken intellectual property system to India — a system that has
> caused medicine prices to skyrocket, leaving patients empty-handed, and
> patients and payers struggling to manage the cost of expensive patented
> medicines…These policies, which are increasingly not working for people in
> the US, should not be forced on people living in India or anywhere else in
> the world.”
> India doesn’t realise that even a country such as Egypt fared better in
> resisting the US pressure. Egypt refused patent to Gilead’s Hepatitis C
> drug and will be in a position to manufacture and export the drug to other
> countries. Modi’s advisers and lobbyists of American pharmaceutical
> industry have likely misled him on India’s legitimate and legal rights and
> the importance of fair drug prices to keep Indians alive
>
> http://www.firstpost.com/world/why-narendra-modi-us-visits-make-the-sick-and-poor-in-india-anxious-2820870.html
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Patralekha

Patralekha
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