HIV Advocates in India Protest EU-Mandated Drug Price Increase
Protesters in India decried a European Union mandate that would increase prices on generic drugs. Such an increase would put lifesaving drugs out of reach for people in poorer countries, the demonstrators said.
The AFP reported on March 2 that the protest took place in New Delhi that same day. Meanwhile, in Brussels, negotiations continued on a trade agreement that would raise prices on Indian-made pharmaceuticals. The drugs that India manufactures have helped five millions people living with HIV to maintain their health, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Frontiers).
"More than 80 percent of the AIDS drugs our medical practitioners use to treat 175,000 people in developing countries are affordable generics from India," said MSF spokesperson Paul Cawthorne, the article said. Cawthorne said that HIV patients were not the only ones to benefit from the lower cost of India-made generics. "Beyond AIDS, we rely on producers in India for drugs to treat other illnesses, such as tuberculosis and malaria," Cawthorne explained. "We can not afford to let our patients’ lifeline be cut."
The EU is seeking more protections on intellectual property, including "data exclusivity" provisions that would extend to drugs that are no longer protected from generic brands by patent limitations.
"It would be a colossal mistake to introduce data exclusivity in India, when millions of people across the globe depend on the country as the ’pharmacy of the developing world,’ " UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health Anand Grover said.
The New Delhi protest drew over 2,000 participants, the article said. Protesters came from various Asian nations, as well as from across India. The demonstration included a march and a "lie-in," the article said.
AFP reported that in 2000 people living with HIV had to pay $10,000 to secure needed. medication. But the advent of India-made generics made drug regimens far more affordable for far more people, with prices falling to $70 per year within a decade.
"We all rely on affordable medicines made here in India to stay alive," said the Asia Pacific Network of Positive People’s Rajiv Kafle, who traveled from Nepal. "We don’t want to go back in time, to when our friends and loved ones died because they couldn’t afford the medicines they needed," added Kafle.
Pharma Times Online reported that India joined the World Trade Organization in 1995. That group has policies in place regarding intellectual property, patents, and generic versions of pharmaceuticals. But according to the protesters, the EU is looking to gain protections that exceed the ones guaranteed by the WTO.
According to Pharma Times Online, critics charge that India’s status as a provider of affordable generic drugs came about because, "when it designed its patent law, [India] prioritized public health, limiting patents to drugs that are new and not ’just routine improvements to older medicines.’ "
"India’s law has long annoyed multinational pharmaceutical companies, and Novartis and Bayer have even tried to overturn the law in the Indian courts," the Delhi Network of Positive People’ Loon Gangte, who also attended the protest, said. "They have failed so far, but companies have now convinced European governments to take up their fight for pharmaceutical profits," he added.
"Data exclusivity has proven to be damaging to public health in FTAs in other countries," Grover told Pharma Times. "It would be a colossal mistake to introduce data exclusivity in India, when millions of people across the globe depend on the country."
"The EU is India’s largest trading partner," noted the Pharma Times Online article.
The negotiations have been ongoing since 2007. In the years since the negotiations began, protests have taken place in other nations as well, including African nations, where HIV is rampant and the population depends upon cheap generics.