Source: Times of India
NEW DELHI: Apprehensive of the US exerting pressure on India to dilute the public health safeguards in its patent laws, organizations from across the world have signed a global petition supporting India’s patent law and urging India to stand strong in the face of “US bullying”.
Along with over 77,000 individuals and 10 organizations working on public health issues in India, the signatories of the petition initiated by the non-profit Oxfam India include 11 organizations from Thailand, where there is strong civil society mobilization on public health issues, two from Malaysia and several coalitions from South Asia and the Asia Pacific.
Yet another petition initiated by the non-profit Avaaz, was targeted specifically at the Obama visit stating that his visit to India could spell life or death for millions of poor people in Asia, Africa and Latin America. This petition has gathered over 870,000 signatures from across the world both from developing and developed countries.
The Avaaz petition urged people to move fast to ensure the poor could still get the medicines they needed.
“India produces cheap HIV, malaria and cancer drugs, but American drug companies want to stop this, to sell their own products at higher prices. Their fierce lobby has got the US to push their line hard, even threatening trade sanctions if India doesn’t change patent laws which put people before profits. Now pressure is rising, with talks set to begin on an investment treaty,” warned the petition.
It said, “President Obama boldly faced down critics to expand healthcare for the poor in the US. Let’s call on him to do the same for global medicine and open up the trade talks, consider our people’s trade plan and put the poorest patients’ lives before Big Pharma’s profits.”
The Oxfam petition signatories also included some US-based organizations (Health Gap, International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, Knowledge Ecology International and Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network) mostly coalitions or networks of community-based movements, consumer groups, researchers and activists in the field of HIV treatment which work in various developing countries in Africa, South Asia and the Asia Pacific.
Other signatories included Consumer Association the Quality of Life (EKPIZO), Greece, Health Innnovation in Practice (HIP), Switzerland and Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World), France.
The petition stated: “India is the pharmacy of the developing world. It is a critical global supplier of low priced medicines to treat diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, cancer and diabetes, which are among the biggest causes of death and suffering.” It added that medicines were affordable for millions of poor patients across the world, thanks to India’s progressive intellectual property system and that this system was responsible for bringing down the price of medicines through generic competition. Indian generic medicines have reduced the prices of HIV/AIDS treatments by more than 90%.
“Now, transnational pharmaceutical companies and the US government are putting pressure on the Indian government to change India’s laws which will make medicines unaffordable,” it warned.
According to the petition, there were signs that the US pressure was working. “Any changes to India’s IP system would mark the end of India’s ability to serve as the affordable pharmacy for the developing world — cutting a medical lifeline to millions.” It concluded by urging people to “stand strong with the Indian government and reject US pressure to change India’s IP system and protect access to life-saving medicines.”