[Ip-health] Business Today: SJM wants India to uphold TRIPS flexibilities in UN forum on TB

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Jul 24 11:40:27 PDT 2018


SJM wants India to uphold TRIPS flexibilities in UN forum on TB

This declaration will set the tone of the policy direction in which global
community will move to tackle the menace of TB.

Joe C Mathew   New Delhi     Last Updated: July 24, 2018  | 00:00 IST

Ashwani Mahajan, National Co-convener of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), an
organisation affiliated with Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the
ideological mentor of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), tweeted
a message this morning (July 24).

"Don't cave into US pressure tactics, TRIPS flexibilities are key to
protecting public health", read the message, tagged to the twitter handles
of Prime Minster Narendra Modi, Health Minister J. P. Nadda, Foreign
Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and BJP National President Amit Shah.

Mahajan was attempting to sensitise Indian top decision makers on an issue
where developing country members of the United Nations (UN) were allegedly
facing immense pressure from the United States. The negotiators and
representatives of UN member nations are currently finalising the text of a
political declaration that will be made by its leaders after the first UN
high level meeting on tackling tuberculosis (TB) scheduled to be held in

This declaration will set the tone of the policy direction in which global
community will move to tackle the menace of TB. India and several other
developing nations where TB is a major health problem would like to use all
flexibilities provided in the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Agreement on
Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to ensure
access to affordable TB medicines. This includes the permission to grant
compulsory licenses to local drug manufacturers to supply low cost generic
versions of patented TB drugs if they are not available in the country at
affordable rates. The US does not want such an explicit endorsement of the
use of TRIPS flexibilities in the declaration and hence wants the
negotiators to drop all references to protecting the rights of individual
nations to take fully legal actions to access affordable medicines for
their patients.

The deadline to finalise the text of the draft declaration has almost
ended. The US is yet to change its position. Mahajan's message was clearly
aimed at the Indian negotiators the G77 Group of Nations meets to review
its position for the last time.


In 2016, TB was responsible for 1.7 million deaths the world over. Even
there, the multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is increasingly
causing much bigger harm thus making the fight against TB more complex. It
is critical for India as BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and
South Africa) together account for over 40 percent of TB and over 50
percent of drug-resistant TB cases.

Incidentally, there are only two recent drugs that are effective against
MDR-TB. The first one is bedaquiline, developed by US firm Johnson &
Johnson, and the other is delamanid, from Japanese pharmaceutical company
Otsuka. Both the medicines are relatively expensive and are being made
available through charity or humanitarian programmes to the needy in India.
While country level attempts are being made to get it sourced at a much
lesser rate, the US move is meant to provide more negotiating power to the
pharmaceutical companies.

As his tweet suggests, Mahajan wants India, and other developing countries,
to retain and exercise their rights to get MDR-TB sourced at an affordable
price, while retaining the option to get it locally made by exercising
public health emergency related flexibilities in the global trade order.
The absence of a political declaration at a UN meet will not take away that
flexibility, but it may send a conflicting signal that does not align with
the sustainable development goals of the UN, that give prominence to access
and affordability of healthcare.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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