Source: Business Line
A network that was at the forefront of an initiative to make breast cancer drug Trastuzumab affordable has red-flagged interactions that United States-based group Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPOA) is scheduled to hold in India with representatives of the legal fraternity.
In a letter to the Chief Justice of India, Justice HL Dattu, the Campaign for affordable Trastuzumab expressed concern over “the intent and purpose” of the proposed week-long “Innovation Dialog” being organised by IPOA in India, starting Sunday.
The US-based group comprises large corporations and law firms and their meetings are troubling because, when it comes to medicines, aggressive use of intellectual property has been damaging, locking up access to affordable treatment rather than increasing the kind of competition that drives follow on innovation forward, the Campaing’s letter said.
The Campaign defines itself as a network of treatment activists, patients and public interest lawyers.
Several multinational pharma corporations with interests in India are members of the IPOA, the letter said. And the agenda of the IPOA event includes meetings with the IPAB (a quasi-judicial body), the Delhi High Court and offices of the Controller of Patents, it added. Similar letters have been sent alerting the Patent Controller General of India, as well.
The scheduled interactions are but an opportunity for multinational pharmaceutical companies to lobby on contentious issues that are taking center stage in the struggle over the interpretation of India’s medicines patent law, the letter alleges.
Among them is India’s patentability criteria that makes it tougher to get a patent on new forms of existing medicines and discretion of the Patent Controller to grant a compulsory licence to a competitor to bring down the prices of medicines that are patented.
Reason for concern
The letter is concerned, with proposed meetings with representatives of the IPAB, the Delhi High Court and the Patent Controller’s offices, as these institutions are in the process of hearing patent-related cases that could involve IPOA members, it said.
“We question the ethics and propriety of meetings and interactions between the judiciary and the IPOA delegation which consisting of representatives of pharma MNCs and the law firms that represent them in patent disputes before the IPAB and Indian courts. This has been implicitly recognised by Hon’ble Justice Dalveer Bhandari who recused himself from Novartis AG vs. Union of India citing his participation in two of the International Judges Conferences organised by IPOA,” the letter pointed out.
“Our courts are in the forefront of the move to hold public institutions to account for any breach of ethics and propriety. The recent step taken by the Supreme Court to scrutinise the visitors book of the Director of Central Bureau of Investigation is a clear message in this regard, with serious note being taken of the alleged visits of individuals directly or indirectly linked to ongoing CBI investigations,” the letter said.
“We believe that the independence of the judiciary is central to its role in protecting the right to life and health guaranteed to us by our Constitution. We therefore request you to cancel any meetings you may have scheduled with the IPOA delegation,” the letter added.