Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A pill to kill?

Read an article in Times of India on pharmaceuticals substance patenting in India. Indian patent law protects the rights of the people from the developing world to have access to life-saving drugs at low costs. India is one of the biggest manufacturers of generic drugs which are used the world over to treat diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Section 3d of our patent law does not allow "evergreening" of patents. This means that no company can claim for a patent on its existing product unless it brings about a meaningful change in the product. Pharmaceuticals company world-over bring about minor changes in their products inorder to prolong the patent once it expires. This way the patent remains though the product is essentially the same.

This practice, clearly, results in the companies making fortunes while the poor are left out to die. This social darwinism is what the Indian patent law does not allow. Also, it does not allow data exclusivity. What this means is that a generic drug manufacturer does not need to conduct clinical trials separately and can use the data of the pharmaceutical companies who have patented the product. This saves the time of the generic drug manufacturers as they are exempted from conducting unnecessary clinical trials when the efficiency of the drug is already proved.

The effectiveness of the patent laws is clear. But the Indian government is increasingly coming under pressure from pharma companies to undo these two provisions. It is to see if the government gives in to the demands of the powerful pharma lobby. The ever-increasing greed of those who are responsible for making medicines that save the lives needs to be curbed.

One can just hope that GoI doesn't buckle under pressure and maintains its stand on pharma substances. India has championed the cause of developing countries and has represented their cause at various international fora. As their de-facto spokesperson it would speak ill of its ability to lead if it relents on this issue which concerns the life and health of millions.

The above-mentioned article can be read here:

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