Intended for healthcare professionals


The production of generic drugs in India

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 22 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1694
  1. James Love, director
  1. 1Knowledge Ecology International, Washington, DC 20009, USA

A new trade agreement with the EU would hinder access to drugs in developing countries

Khalil Senosi/AP/PA

The European Union is negotiating a trade agreement with India, the consequences of which will be serious for billions of people living in developing countries. Government officials in India are focused on economic growth and are keen to complete a trade deal with the EU. In exchange for market access in other areas of the economy, the EU wants India, a country with very low per capita incomes, to embrace tough new rules on ownership and enforcement of intellectual property for medical inventions.

The negotiation is between two very different entities. The EU is now the world’s largest economy; its gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at more than $16.4 trillion (£10.2 trillion; €11.8 trillion) in 2009—about 28% of the entire world’s GDP.

India has a large population—estimated at nearly 1.16 billion in 2009, or 17% of the world’s population. This is also about the same as the population of Europe plus all other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development combined.

India’s GDP was estimated at $1.3 trillion in 2009, about 8% of the size of the EU economy. On a per capita basis, Indian incomes were 3.5% of those in Europe. At the bottom of the income distribution, the differences are even more stark. An estimated 317 million Indians live with incomes below the official poverty line—$12 a month for urban areas and $8 a month for rural areas.

In 1970, India eliminated patents on drug products.1 This move enabled …

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