India's global pharmacy role threatened by EU pact
A pharmacist near a tablet counting machine at a Cipla manufacturing unit on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, Thursday, Feb 9, 2012. Efforts by India and the European Union to strengthen trade are threatening India's ability to deliver life-saving medicines to the world's poorest, analysts say as the two sides resume protracted negotiations on a free-trade pact. Health industry workers and activists worry that India may bow to EU demands for strict intellectual property protections and investor guarantees, which could result in the slow poisoning of its own generic pharmaceutical industry. India's $26 billion drug industry has become an immense profit engine, growing at 15-25 percent a year _ but also a lifeline for millions of patients in poor countries, many in Africa, unable to pay sky-high Western prices to treat illnesses that include HIV, malaria, asthma and cancer. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
(AP) -- Efforts by India and the European Union to strengthen trade are threatening India's ability to deliver lifesaving medicines to the world's poorest, analysts say as the two sides push through protracted negotiations on a free-trade pact.
India's prime minister and top EU officials are hoping their summit Friday in New Delhi helps move beyond disagreements over issues like European labor market limits and Indian duties on cars.
But health industry workers and activists worry that India may bow to EU demands for strict intellectual property protections and investor guarantees, which could close down the world's generic drug supply.
India's $26 billion drug industry has become an immense profit engine, growing at 15-25 percent a year - but also a lifeline for millions of patients in poor countries, many in Africa, unable to pay sky-high Western prices to treat illnesses that include HIV, malaria, asthma and cancer. For HIV alone, India makes more than 80 percent of the world's medicines.
The EU says it has suggested a clause in the free-trade pact "to ensure that nothing in the proposed agreement would limit India's freedom to produce and export lifesaving medicines."
Despite the EU assurance, Indian drug makers and health workers say two broad provisions in the agreement - one on intellectual property rights, and the other on investor lawsuits - would make it much easier for international pharmaceutical giants to sue the Indian government, drug manufacturers and distributors.
That, they argue, would dramatically curtail Indian production of many lifesaving drugs, or cause prices to rise to levels many cannot afford.
"The EU has changed strategy and has now focused on enforcement," trying to create an intellectual property rights regime "that will intimidate even legitimate generic manufacturers and thereby impact access and availability," said Dilip G. Shah, a former Pfizer executive who now heads both the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance and the industry's Vision Consulting Group.
Activists have unleashed a global campaign to call the EU out on the policies. Analysts and drug makers say they have a point. While India's pharmaceutical companies would likely survive under a regime limiting generics, millions of the world's neediest patients, including within India, may not.
"The industry will be OK. They can produce anything" including drugs for Western multinationals, pharmaceutical analyst Bino Pathiparampil of IIFL Capital said. They may also gain from easier access to European markets.
"But there would be a serious impact on society, as many of the poor would be cut off from treatments," he said.
Since the talks began in 2007, Indian negotiators have refused to hamper the country's generic drug industry by undermining the low-cost production, high-quality professionalism or permissive licensing regime that has helped the industry grow.
But India and the EU both face different pressures today than when they started five years ago. Following a year of economic turmoil, Europe is eager to reach India's young and upwardly mobile market of 1.2 billion people, while India wants to prove its place among the world's economic powerhouses.
Now would also be an ideal time for India's government to show progress on a pact that can distract from a year of embarrassing corruption scandals.
The EU is India's biggest trading partner, accounting last year for $92 billion in bilateral sales. The trade pact, they say, would lift that to an annual $237 billion by 2015.
With the talks held behind closed doors and without participation by health ministers, analysts say there are few voices to prevent the final draft from giving multinational pharmaceuticals enough power to shut generics down.
On Friday, hundreds of people living with HIV protested in New Delhi to press Indian officials to reject any rules that might limit world supplies of anti-retroviral treatments.
"Whether we get to live or die should not be up to trade negotiators," Mundrika Gahlot of the Delhi Network of Positive People said in a statement.
Half of the generics India produces are used domestically, as India grapples with its own health care crisis and many impoverished patients are left to pay for care themselves.
The European Union has suggested it could drop two demands that would have affected the generics industry, specifically on patent extensions and on allowing companies to keep scientific data and clinical studies under wraps.
But experts say there are even more worrying provisions in the draft, which has been leaked during the talks and discussed by Indian negotiators with health care workers.
Measures to strengthen intellectual property rights, for example, would require courts to impose injunctions on drug production whenever a complaint is filed, whereas courts today often allow production of lifesaving drugs to continue while cases are pending.
There are also measures for widening lawsuits so patent holders can sue not just pharmaceuticals producing generics, but also those who supply materials as mundane as plastic bottles, nonprofit groups and foreign governments who purchase the drugs, and hypothetically even those who use them - the patients.
Another measure would let investors sue the Indian government if they feel their investment is being undermined, for example, by a license that allows a generic to be produced.
"Who do these measures serve? Not the European people, not the Indian people, not even the governments," said Indian lawyer Anand Grover, who since 2006 has served as a U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights to health. "In fact, this is for a very small, profit-taking group of people."
©2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
- EU trade deal threatens access to life saving drugs for developing countries Mar 22, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Novartis fights patent rejection in Indian court Sep 06, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- EU-India trade deal could limit generics supply Dec 10, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Patent fight in India centers on AIDS drug May 11, 2006 | not rated yet | 0
- India patent case threatens cheap drug supply: MSF Sep 05, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
4 hours ago From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
21 hours ago I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
Europe's medicines watchdog said Friday the benefits of acne drug Diane-35, also widely used as a contraceptive, outweigh the risk of developing blood clots in the veins—when correctly prescribed.
Medications 20 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and Switzerland's Cytos Biotechnology AG today announced that the first healthy volunteer has been dosed in a Phase 1 clinical trial with their ...
Medications 21 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—An aspirin a day may not always keep heart disease away, say two University of Florida cardiologists. But a new algorithm they have developed outlines factors physicians should weigh as ...
Medications May 16, 2013 | 3.5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
(HealthDay)—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved new, lower-dose labeling for the popular sleep drug Ambien (zolpidem) in an effort to cut down on daytime drowsiness that could be a hazard ...
Medications May 15, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
Big names in medicine are set to give an upbeat assessment of the war on AIDS on Tuesday, 30 years after French researchers identified the virus that causes the disease.
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 'fear circuitry' in the brain never rests
Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or ...
6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—What if the quality of your work depends more on your focus on the piano keys or canvas or laptop than your musical or painting or computing skills? If target users can be convinced, they ...
17 hours ago | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
The neural machinery underlying our olfactory sense continues to be an enigma for neuroscience. A recent review in Neuron seeks to expand traditional ideas about how neurons in the olfactory bulb might encode information about ...
16 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
In 2008 researchers from the University of Southern Denmark showed that the drug thioridazine, which has previously been used to treat schizophrenia, is also a powerful weapon against antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as ...
14 hours ago | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Treatment for alcohol use disorders works best if the patient actively understands and incorporates the interventions provided in the clinic. Multiple factors can influence both the type and degree of neurocognitive abnormalities ...
15 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |