In recent days, the U.S. government has further stepped up its longstanding attacks on India’s intellectual property regime – attacks conducted on behalf of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, which sees generic competition from India as undermining its business interests.
Following the recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the U.S., a joint statement was released by the leaders of both governments, with the Economic Growth section of the statement including a “commitment to establish an annual high-level Intellectual Property (IP) Working Group with appropriate decision-making and technical-level meetings as part of the Trade Policy Forum”. MSF and other public health advocates are concerned that this working group gives the U.S. a formal and dedicated bilateral forum to maintain ongoing and increased pressure on India to drop the use of patent law safeguards that play a critical role in improving access to affordable medicines across the developing world.
India’s patent laws and policies have fostered robust generic competition, which has brought the price of medicines down substantially—in the case of HIV, by more than 90 percent.
Measures that would threaten India’s public health safeguards include a repeal of its tougher patentability criteria, stringent IP enforcement via the judicial system, adoption of data exclusivity monopolies, patent term extensions and restrictions on the use of compulsory licenses.
Within days of Mr. Modi’s visit to the U.S., the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) launched an Out of Cycle Review (OCR) of India’s patent regime, in particular into those areas identified in the 2014 Special 301 report published in April. The USTR is now seeking comments from public and foreign governments on this review. MSF intends to submit formal comments to the USTR before the deadline of October 31, 2014.
MSF responds to the U.S.’s renewed attacks on India’s patent regime
“These latest actions underscore the influence that the U.S. pharmaceutical industry has in wielding U.S. government pressure on countries like India to rollback progressive patent law safeguards that aim to balance IP with the need to foster generic competition to increase access to affordable medicines.
MSF urges the Indian Government to continue to uphold, and even to intensify efforts, to align India’s patent law with its public health needs. India’s use of patent law safeguards is fully consistent with global trade rules, and seen as a model for many countries, including Brazil and South Africa, where governments are reforming their patent system to encourage generic competition in medicines. As a treatment provider, we would like to emphasise the importance of India’s current patent regime in enabling us to meet the needs of our patients in India and around the world as affordably and effectively as possible.”
- Leena Menghaney, South Asia Regional Head, Médecins Sans Frontières’ Access Campaign