As Big Pharma Piles On The Political Pressure, Indian Government Slows Pace Of Compulsory Drug Licensing

from the regrettable-for-many,-fatal-for-some dept

As we've been reporting for a while now, the Indian government has been taking advantage of the provision in TRIPS that permits it to issue compulsory licenses for key drugs at affordable prices. As Professor Brook Baker explained last year:

the WTO TRIPS Agreement allows India and any other country to issue compulsory licenses on any grounds they want to as long as certain procedural safeguards are followed. Using fully lawful compulsory licensing procedures, India did issue a compulsory license on an overpriced Bayer cancer medicine, citing three justifications in a 60-plus page decision: excessive pricing, failure to supply the market, and refusal to produce locally. As a result of this license, the cost of the cancer medicine has now fallen more than 97%, showing the excess mark-up that Bayer imposes on patients.
That obviously doesn't sit too well with Western pharmaceutical companies, whose business model is essentially to sell low volumes of new drugs for extremely high prices that only the relatively affluent can afford. From the Western drug industry's perspective, India's actions are particularly troubling for the example they provide to other emerging nations. That's why big pharma companies are getting US politicians to put pressure on India to limit grants of compulsory licenses, or face retaliatory measures. According to this article in The Times of India, it seems to be working:
Amid heightened scrutiny of the intellectual property regime, the [Indian] government has decided to tread with caution on a compulsory licence for a cancer drug to ensure that its decision is in line with the legal provisions.

While compulsory licencing, which entails waiver of patent under extreme situations, for three cancer drugs was being pushed by the health ministry, the issue is now limited to Dasatinib, a medicine to treat a type of cancer of the white blood cells, for which Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) holds a patent.
Although that caution is understandable, the sad fact is people are likely to die as a result of this slowing of the flow of cancer treatments at affordable prices, brought about by big pharma companies worried about profit margins. That's rather ironic for an industry that is predicated on saving lives.

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Filed Under: compulsory license, india, patents, pharmaceuticals, trips, wto

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  1. icon
    Aussie Geoff (profile), 11 Mar 2014 @ 6:38am


    Strange, they are being chastised for adhering to the treaty everyone agreed to.

    Nothing strange about it at all. The largest PAC of US business (that would be what is laughingly call the US government) is all for enforcing treaties/agreements etc when they are told to by big business, but totally ignore them for exactly the same reason!

    Why should they even consider any new treaties?

    They shouldn't. It is well past time that all countries negotiated acceptable agreements between themselves and not invite the US to participate of have any input. All it requires is for politicians around the world to grow a spine and tell the US they are not required or wanted. Of course the problem is finding the politicians that will do this.

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