India’s choice: editorial from NY Times

It is notable that the changes in the Indian patent law provoked an editorial in The New York Times.

They write: “India has become the world’s supplier of cheap AIDS drugs because it has the necessary raw materials and a thriving and sophisticated copycat drug industry made possible by laws that grant patents to the process of making medicines, rather than to the drugs themselves. But when India signed the World Trade Organisation’s agreement on intellectual property in 1994, it was required to institute patents on products by Jan. 1, 2005. These rules have little to do with free trade and more to do with the lobbying power of the American and European pharmaceutical industries.

India’s government has issued rules that will effectively end the copycat industry for newer drugs. For the world’s poor, this will be a double hit – cutting off the supply of affordable medicines and removing the generic competition that drives down the cost of brand-name drugs.

But there is still a chance to fix the flaws in these rules, because they are contained in a decree that must be approved by Parliament.

Heavily influenced by multinational and Indian drug makers eager to sell patented medicines to India’s huge middle class, the decree is so tilted toward the pharmaceutical industry that it does not even take advantage of rights countries enjoy under the W.T.O. to protect public health.”

They continue: “While some drugs – those that existed before 1995 – will always be off patent in India, some widely used drugs are at risk. So are new generations of much more expensive AIDS drugs that will soon be needed worldwide as resistance builds to current medicines. If the decree is not changed before Parliament approves it, it will be very difficult for India to supply them. India’s parliamentarians must keep in mind that this arcane dispute is actually a crucial battleground for the health of hundreds of millions of people in India and worldwide.”

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These articles from the Indian financial daily The Hindu Business Line and the New York Times editorial followed a press briefing held after the World CAB meeting with generic companies in Mumbai.

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