09 January 2012
Even as the EU and India continue negotiations on a free trade agreement ahead of their next summit in February, another transiting consignment of Indian generics was seized in the EU late last year, much to the consternation of both the Indian industry and the Indian government. The seizure appears to have disrupted a long quiet period of sorts on the controversial issue of illegal detentions of transiting Indian consignments of generic medicines at EU ports over alleged violations of intellectual property rights.
Rajeev Kher, additional secretary at India’s Department of Commerce, said that despite an interim understanding [on the issue of such seizures] a consignment of generics from Ajanta Pharma had been seized in the Netherlands.
“We have very ‘heavily’ protested and they released the consignment. They have conveyed their regrets. Apparently someone in customs there doesn’t understand the commitments. We have taken a very serious view,” Mr Kher said at the sidelines of an event in Mumbai to mark the golden jubilee celebrations of the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association.
Ajanta Pharma confirmed to Scrip that a shipment comprising 29 cartons of sildenafil citrate tablets and jelly and five cartons of tadalafil tablets headed for Surinam in South America were detained by customs in the Netherlands, though no “official intimation” was provided on the reasons for this. “On 25th November we were informed that 29 cartons containing sildenafil citrate were cleared by the customs for onward movement to Surinam. The shipment was received by the consignee in a completely damaged condition as the customs had ripped open many of the cartons and they were very badly handled,” Ajanta told Scrip. The cartons of tadalafil tablets were released on 7 December and were received by the consignee again in a damaged condition on the next day, the firm said. Ajanta also added that there was no official seizure letter from the Dutch customs. The firm, which took up the matter with the Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council of India and India’s Ministry of Commerce, said that that the consignments were finally released through their intervention.
Mr Kher, though, indicated that India may not seek any further action against the apparent breach, given that the EU had already agreed to amend its law on such seizures. “We are waiting for that law to be amended, which is a process that could take between 18 months to two years,” Mr Kher added.
India’s commerce and industry minister, Anand Sharma, had earlier indicated that India had reached an understanding with the EU on the controversial issue of seizures of transiting Indian consignments of generic medicines.
The minister was then reported as having said that the EU had accepted India’s position and that India would consequently retract its complaint to the World Trade Organization since it does not want to be ‘in conflict’.
The WTO trade dispute procedure was filed by India and Brazil in May 2010 ( scripintelligence.com, 14 May 2010).
Over the past few years, there have been a series of controversial seizures of Indian medicines consignments transiting through Europe, largely on the basis of the EC regulation 1383/2003, which is at the centre of the controversy. Data provided by the Dutch government to Health Action International had earlier revealed 17 seizures (16 from India and one from China) of transiting consignments by Dutch authorities in 2008, although another seizure of a consignment of about 1.7 million clopidogrel tablets from India’s Macleods Pharmaceuticals en route to Venezuela was reported in Paris in 2009 (scripintelligence.com, 4 November 2009).
On the progress in negotiations on the proposed free trade agreement, Mr Kher only said that it will materialise only when both partners reach an understanding and “think that they have got a good deal”. “We are still working on it. The EU-India summit is on 10 February ,” he added.
John Clancy, EU trade spokesman, had in November last year, said that ‘intense negotiations’ were expected to continue over the coming months to effectively solve the remaining ‘core issues’ between then and the EU-India summit.