Increasing IP barriers will have severe impact on generic medicines ‘Made in India’
Indian Prime Minister Must Resist Big Pharma Pressure to Trade Away
New Delhi, 29 April 2015: At a conference titled ‘IP as Frontline Tool for
Make in India’, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce
and industry (FICCI) to mark World IP Week, the Delhi Network of Positive
People and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition held a protest
before Mr. Amitabh Kant (Secretary DIPP), Mr. Rajeev Agarwal (Patent
Controller General) and Mr. N.K. Sabarwal (Convenor, IP Thank Tank),
highlighting the negative impact of IP barriers on generic medicines ‘Made
The protest comes as Prime Minister Modi has expressed an intent to
potentially change the country’s pro-public-health laws that support the
production of affordable generic medicines ‘made in India,’ upon which
millions of people in India and beyond rely to stay alive.
In 2001 the cost to treat someone with HIV fell by over 96 percent – from
10,439 dollars to 360 dollars – per person per year due to generic
competition from India. Since then, India’s role in ensuring global access
to life-saving medicines is considered vital, including HIV, TB, cancer and
hepatitis. India is often referred to as the ‘pharmacy of the developing
world’ because of its critical role in providing affordable generic
medicines for use in India and across the world.
The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) has recently launched
the ‘Make in India’ Campaign, which has the potential to further promote and
encourage the manufacture and supply of affordable generic medicines from
India, but could also backfire if stronger intellectual property (IP)
provisions are introduced as part of the effort.
“We are urging Prime Minister Modi to ensure the ‘Make in India’ Campaign
works to support the manufacture and supply of affordable generic
medicines,” said Vikas Ahuja, President of the Delhi Network of Positive
People (DNP+). “Instead of seeking to abuse the IP system by bending the
rules and claiming monopolies on older medicines, the pharmaceutical
industry should focus on real breakthrough innovation, and the government
should develop a framework that fosters generic competition in a way that
also allows for affordable access. This is a dialogue that needs to happen,
and we invite Prime Minister Modi to be a part of the solution, instead of
being part of the problem.”
The powerful pharmaceutical lobby of patent-holding companies, backed by the
United States Trade Representative (USTR), the European Commission,
Switzerland and Japan are on a mission to change India’s status as the
world’s pharmacy, feeling threatened by the growing technological ability of
the Indian generic industry to compete.
Over the last year, there has been continuous bilateral pressure from the
USTR, which in the long run may lead to IP measures that far exceed what is
required under international trade rules in the World Trade Organization’s
TRIPS Agreement. Such so-called ‘TRIPS Plus’ measures would undermine the
hard-fought public health safeguards in India’s patent law.
Indian trade negotiators, DIPP policymakers and the judiciary are now under
pressure to dilute the safeguards in India’s patent law, to blindly enforce
patents at the cost of people’s lives, and to link the drug regulatory
system to IP in order to block the registration of affordable generics.
In the past, India has maintained its position that in the area of
pharmaceuticals, its laws are fully compliant with international trade rules
and has withstood pressure from the European Commission and other developed
countries to change its IP system. The government, policymakers and the
judiciary have sought to balance the imperatives of the patent system with
the right to health and public health, by upholding the legal safeguards
enshrined in the patent law and limiting the potential of pharmaceutical
companies to abuse the system.
But worryingly, in a recent speech addressing the corporate sector, Prime
Minister Modi hinted at bringing changes in India’s intellectual property
system – “अब हम ग्लोबल पैरामीटर्स के इंटेलेक्चुअल प्रॉपर्टी राइट के दिशा में
काम नहीं करेंगे तो दुनिया हमारे साथ नाता नहीं जोड़ेगी”.
“As people living with HIV who rely on a life-long supply of quality generic
medicines to stay alive, we are intimately aware that IP barriers undermine
the availability of low-cost, life-saving medicines ‘made in India’ and the
future of the generic industry in India altogether,” said Loon Gangte,
Coordinator of ITPC-South Asia. “After India started implementing the WTO
TRIPS Agreement ten years ago, we have watched with concern as new cancer
medicines that have been patented one by one are being ‘merely imported’ in
small quantities and launched at an exorbitant monthly cost of Rs. 1 lakh to
1.5 lakh (1500-2300 USD) per patient. In the absence of local generic
production, caused by IP barriers such as 20 year product patents, there is
no ‘Make in India,’ and new cancer medicines are now priced out of reach of
patients and publicly-funded cancer hospitals.”
The introduction of a product patent system in 2005 has made India dependent
on expensive imported patented medicines, despite the existence of an
indigenous pharmaceutical industry with the capacity of low-cost production.
Already patent monopolies stop Indian generic companies from making many new
drugs. Introducing additional IP barriers will not promote ‘Make in India’
in the area of pharmaceuticals.
Contact: Vikas Ahuja, +919312732495