[Ip-health] India–EFTA trade talks may make medicines more expensive

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Wed Mar 22 03:39:36 PDT 2017

As negotiators of the India-EFTA trade negotiations meet this week, the
below PR was sent this morning:

*India*–*EFTA trade talks may make medicines more expensive*

MSF and civil society urge Swiss negotiators not to undermine the ‘pharmacy
of the developing world’


Geneva/New Delhi, 22 March 2017 - As intellectual property (IP) negotiators
from India and the four countries from EFTA (European Free Trade
Association) meet in New Delhi this week to resume talks, Médecins Sans
Frontières (MSF), International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, and
Public Eye warn that Swiss negotiators are demanding the inclusion of
harmful intellectual property measures that could adversely impact access
to medicines. EFTA is a trade bloc of four European countries outside of
the European Union, made up of Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and

India has a pro-public-health patent law that has enabled low-priced,
generic versions of life-saving medicines to be produced, upon which
millions of people around the world rely. Indian generic manufacturers have
also innovated to adapt medicines to the specific needs of resource-poor
settings, such as three-in-one fixed-dose combination treatments, or
special formulations needed to treat children. Competition among generic
manufacturers in India has brought the price of HIV treatment down by more
than 99%. These factors have revolutionised HIV treatment, allowing it to
be expanded to more than 17 million people across the developing world.

“India’s law has long annoyed Swiss pharmaceutical corporations, with
Novartis and Roche even having tried to overturn safeguards in India’s
patent law and block registration of more affordable versions of medicines
in the Indian courts,” said Loon Gangte of the International Treatment
Preparedness Coalition. “Swiss pharmaceutical corporations have so far
failed to further their strategies to create new monopolies on medicines,
but they have now convinced the Swiss government to take up their fight for
pharmaceutical profiteering in the India–EFTA trade agreement.”

The proposed provisions – revealed in a leaked intellectual property (IP)
chapter of the negotiations – would protect and lengthen ‘evergreening’
monopoly strategies of Swiss and other pharmaceutical corporations, eroding
India’s ability to produce and supply generic medicines. The provisions
proposed by Swiss negotiators include data exclusivity, a form of monopoly
via the regulatory system that prevents the marketing of generic
formulations, even when patents no longer apply or exist on the
medicine. Corporations
could employ this technique to block generic competition from India and
thus keep medicine prices high and out of reach of people in developing
countries for longer periods of time.

“We are worried that the harmful provisions the Swiss government is pushing
for, which go beyond what’s required under internationally-agreed law, will
further create exclusive rights for profiteering and serve to undermine
what remains of generic competition in India”, said Leena  Menghaney, South
Asia Head of MSF’s Access Campaign.“We hope that Commerce Minister Nirmala
Sitharaman’s commitment to not engage in these excessive provisions, known
as ‘TRIPS-Plus’ measures, will remain firm in the EFTA negotiations.”

Generic manufacturing from India has been under constant assault from
powerful pharmaceutical corporations, who receive support from countries
like the United States, Japan and Switzerland. These governments in turn
pressure the Indian government in bilateral trade negotiations to raise the
bar of IP provisions, in a bid for an increased number and forms of

“We are outraged to see that the Swiss government leading the EFTA trade
negotiations attack the pharmacy of the developing world with its actions,”
said Patrick Durisch, Public Eye, a Swiss-based organisation focusing on
global justice. “Switzerland must respect the right to health and stop
exerting pressure on the Indian government to adopt increased levels of
intellectual property – over and above what World Trade Organization trade
rules mandate.”

Editor’s note:

*Swiss corporations vs. the Union of India*

In 2005, in compliance with international trade rules, India began granting
patents on medicines but designed its law with safeguards–including a
clause known as Section 3(d) that prevents companies from abusing the
patent system. India’s strict patentability criteria prevents
pharmaceutical corporations from perpetually extending monopolies by
gaining patents on modifications to existing drugs.

Seeking a more extensive granting of patent protection for its products
than that offered by Indian law, the Swiss pharmaceutical corporation
Novartis took the Indian government to court in a long-drawn out legal
battle over its 2005 Patents Act (Novartis vs Union of India).

On 1 April 2013, India’s Supreme Court sent a clear signal that the
patentability criteria should be strictly applied by patent offices and
frivolous patent applications should be rejected. The Court upheld the
clause known as Section 3(d) that prevents pharmaceutical companies from
abusing the patent system and rejected Novartis’s patent claims on imatinib
mesylate (Glivec).

More recently, the Swiss corporation Roche, in an effort to prevent the
marketing of potentially affordable versions of a breast cancer drug,
claimed it had data exclusivity and copyright on the clinical studies
published in its package insert accompanying the pharmaceutical product.
The courts dismissed the Swiss firm’s claims and upheld the Indian drug
regulator’s approval to competitors to market the cancer drug.

*EFTA negotiating text*

Leaked document: March 15, 2017 Note by Switzerland on India EFTA TEPA IP
Chapter, Knowledge Ecology International available at

EFTA-India FTA negotiations began in October 2008 and 15 rounds of
negotiations have been held to date. Leaked Text: Draft Chapter of IP of
India-EFTA FTA is available at:


*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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