Source: Times of India
NEW DELHI: The Campaign for Affordable Transtuzumab, a group of individuals and organisations fighting to increase access to medicines, has written to the chief justices of the Supreme Court and Delhi high court and to the chairperson of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) expressing grave concern over the meetings scheduled by the US lobby group Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPOA) with IPAB, a quasi-judicial body, the Delhi HC and the offices of the Controller of Patents. The IPOA agenda even includes a scheduled visit to the Supreme Court. “The intent of these meetings is clear – they are blatant attempts to influence the judicial outcomes in cases relating to drug patent disputes that are currently before the courts,” pointed out the letter.
The letter urged the justices to cancel any meeting scheduled with the IPOA delegation as the IPOA event providing privileged access of an IP lobby group to the highest levels of the judiciary and key quasi-judicial bodies like the IPAB involved a serious conflict of interest that could cast a dark shadow on the neutrality of the judiciary.
The campaign members dismissed the claim that these meetings were being organised to “share experiences and perspectives on intellectual property and practice with patent practitioners and the judiciary of India” calling it a “shameless ruse”. “The intent is clearly to create 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,” said the letter.
It added that the campaign was closely following the misuse of patent rights and more recently the vexatious litigation of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd in India to maintain control over the market for the life-saving breast cancer drug Trastuzumab, thus blocking access to treatment for many women diagnosed and suffering from a certain kind of breast cancer (HER2+) for which this drug was very effective.
“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. 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,” stated the letter.
The IPOA delegation comprises representatives of pharma MNCs with interests in India and the law firms that represent them in patent disputes before the IPAB and Indian courts. Members of the IPOA (notably Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, Pfizer and Merck) have cases and appeals pending before the IPAB and the Delhi High Court. “The stated aim of the IPOA is to promote the case of its member entities, and, is thus no more than a lobbying organization set up by corporate interests to promote their restricted view of intellectual property. It is disquieting that this lobbying organization is seeking to meet members of the judiciary in India which is hearing currently pending matters in which IPOA members are plaintiffs,” stated the letter.