Source: Economic Times
LONDON: The chairman of India’s oldest pharmaceutical firm Cipla has asked the Indian government to push for “obligatory licensing” of drugs to improve access to essential medicines in the Third World.
Yusuf Hamied, often referred to as the grand old man of the Indian pharmaceutical industry, was in London to propagate his vision of Indian companies being free to manufacture and market drugs at an affordable cost.
“It is important to have a compulsory licensing system. In fact, I am in favour of obligatory licensing where we don’t mind paying royalties to the patent holder but at least Indian companies should be able to manufacture and market essential drugs to make them more accessible in the Third World,” he said.
He said he was confident a Canadian system, which allows the country to copy any drug as long as it pays four per cent royalties to the patent holder, would be the best way forward for India.
Hamied, who stepped down as Cipla’s managing director earlier this year to take on a mentor’s role, said: “What is good enough for the Canadians, should be good enough for the Indians.
“There is big obsolescence in the drugs industry and new drugs are coming up all the time. But we Indians are impotent because we can’t manufacture and market them.
“We don’t want to encroach on the regulated developed world markets of the world. Just leave the developing world to us so that we don’t deprive millions and ensure access to affordable drugs.”
Hamied, who studied chemistry at Cambridge University, is credited with making anti-AIDS drugs available in developing countries at a fraction of the cost charged by multinationals.
He set the global health community abuzz a decade ago when he said he could produce cocktails of AIDS medicines for a dollar per day, and that price has since fallen to 20 cents a day.
“The one thing that brings greatest satisfaction is that in 2001, only between 2,000 and 4,000 Africans could afford the anti-AIDs drugs. Today, nine million are being treated,” he said.
“It is time India takes its correct position in healthcare because our policies will affect millions, not only in India but in the rest of the developing world.”