Obama is urged to support India in supplying world with generic drugs

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 20 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h866
  1. Sanjeet Bagcchi
  1. 1Kolkata

Leading American organisations have asked President Obama to support India in providing “high quality” and “low cost” generic drugs that are essential to promoting healthcare around the globe.

In a letter dated 20 January the organisations, which include the Health Global Access Project, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and Oxfam America, urged Obama to support the interests of people living “in the United States, India, Africa, or elsewhere” who require affordable drugs, instead of promoting the narrow interests of one segment of the drug industry.1

The letter said that Indian drug companies produce 90% of the generic HIV/AIDS drugs used around the world, including the vast majority of those procured by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. “By reducing the price of treatment by over 96% generic competition made it possible for you to commit to ending AIDS,” it said. “Similarly, people facing heart disease, cancer, hepatitis C, and other life threatening illness around the world, but especially in developing countries, would not be able to afford their medicines were it not for Indian generic companies.”

The letter said that drug companies are “taking aim against” section 3(d) of the Indian Patent Act. This section implies that India doesn’t “support patents for inventions which [are] minor modifications and [prevents] undue monopoly during the extended period of patent protection by the company.”2

The organisations also pointed out that the industry is lobbying to put pressure on India to “go beyond its WTO [World Trade Organization] obligations to adopt ‘data exclusivity,’ rules which make clinical trial data submitted to public regulators into another right, creating a monopoly barrier to generic registration and competition even where there is no patent.”

The letter said, “Dropping Section 3(d) and adopting data exclusivity would reward some of the world’s most profitable companies, not for innovation but simply for having effective lawyers and lobbyists. And it would damage the health of millions.”

It added, “Our world is safer when it is healthier, and it is healthier because India’s laws appropriately balance health and IP [intellectual property].”

Swapan Jana, secretary of the Kolkata based non-government organisation Society for Social Pharmacology, told The BMJ, “The organisations have spoken for the better affordability (across the world) of the generic medicines produced in India. It would be interesting to note how the US President and the multinational pharmaceutical companies react.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h866


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