Press release |

MSF welcomes Ministry of Commerce clarification on compulsory licensing: warns US pressure on India will continue

Photograph by Fiona Morris
PEP Drugs for children at Angau Memorial General Hospital, Lae/ Morobe Province in Papua New Guinea. The MSF Family Support Centre provides medical and psychological services for survivors of child abuse, sexual and intimate partner violence. MSF started providing care at the centre in November 2007.

New Delhi, 23 March 2016 — The Indian Government recently responded to media reports that they had assured the US India Business Council that they would not grant compulsory licences on medicines - overriding a patent to allow for the production of affordable generic versions of medicines under licence - in the future.

MSF responds to the Indian government's statement with the below quote:

"Médecins Sans Frontières welcomes the clarification from the Indian government that it has the freedom to grant compulsory licences and to determine the grounds upon which such licences are granted.

"It will be a grave mistake to think that the US pharmaceutical industry, US India Business Council (USIBC) and the US Trade Representative (USTR) will give up their campaign against the implementation of public health safeguards within India’s patent law, which allow generic producers to provide life-saving drugs at affordable prices.

"Currently, US government and industry are pushing for amendments to the Indian patent rules to allow out of turn fast track examination of patent applications, which will undermine the efforts of public interest organisations and patient groups to file pre-grant oppositions against the grant of 'evergreening' patent claims on medicines.

"We urge Prime Minister Modi to continue to maintain India’s pro-public health stance on intellectual property and access to medicines, and to resist pressure from the US and its pharmaceutical industry lobbyists. To do otherwise is to impede India’s progress towards using legal flexibilities allowed under international trade rules to protect new models of innovation, access and trade in generic medicines."

- Leena Menghaney, Regional Head-South Asia, MSF Access Campaign

Editor’s Note:

India—the world’s principal producer and supplier of quality generic medicines, including for antibiotics, TB, malaria and HIV treatment in developing countries— has in the past year repeatedly been singled out by the US government and the multinational pharmaceutical industry for insufficient enforcement of their intellectual property and its independent patent examination system. Pressure has been building in the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and US demands - on IP enforcement, fast-track examination of patent applications and moratorium on compulsory licensing - has dominated discussions with stakeholders.

The USIBC, a group that also receives funding from pharmaceutical companies, has revealed in its submission to the US Trade Representative that it had conducted training for India’s patent examiners, a move that compromises the independence of the patent examination system which was designed with the social objective of stopping drug giants from indulging in 'evergreening'. Evergreening covers simple changes in the chemistry or formulation of existing pharmaceutical products - a lucrative game for the pharmaceutical business, but also a deadly one for patients: preventing generic competition for these medicines.