MSF criticizes Swiss pharma aims at upcoming India-EFTA trade talks

Source: Pharma Letter

On May 30, 2017 (tomorrow), trade talks will resume for the India-EFTA (European Free Trade Association) free trade agreement (FTA) in Liechtenstein, between India and the EFTA countries of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Through this deal, according to the international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in an announcement ahead of the meeting, Swiss pharmaceutical corporations are working to erode India’s ability to produce and supply generic medicines for people across the developing world. The proposed provisions in the FTA would promote a strategy that pharmaceutical corporations use to prolong their monopolies, called ‘evergreening.’ The provisions proposed by Swiss negotiators include ‘data exclusivity,’ a form of monopoly via the regulatory system that prevents the marketing of generic formulations, even when a medicine is not patented or no longer patented.

Pharmaceutical corporations have long been seeking a more extensive granting of patent protection on medicines than that offered by India’s pro-public-health law. In 2006, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis (NOVN: VX) took the Indian government to court in a long-drawn out legal battle over its 2005 Patents Act (Novartis vs Union of India). In India’s Patents Act, Section 3(d) discourages the granting of patents on new forms of known medicines, effectively preventing evergreening. Abusive evergreening practices and safeguards to prevent them were central to this case, and to the future of India’s role as ‘pharmacy of the developing world. ‘Novartis lost in India’s Supreme Court in 2013, the MSF noted.

Swiss pharma has now “enlisted government to their bidding”

“India’s patent law puts people’s lives over pharmaceutical corporations’ profits, and millions of people across the developing world are alive today because of affordable generic medicines made in India. Swiss pharmaceutical corporations have long been trying to stamp out the competition from India, and now through the EFTA-India trade deal have enlisted the Swiss government to their bidding. By pushing for so-called ‘data exclusivity,’ pharmaceutical corporations are trying to get a backdoor route to a monopoly, even when a drug doesn’t merit a patent under India’s law,” stated Leena Menghaney, South Asia head, MSF Access Campaign, adding:”We urge the Indian negotiators to stand strong and reject any provisions that will be harmful for people’s access to the medicines they need to stay alive and healthy.”

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