Prognosis: short-term relief, long-term pain
In the midst of civil society protests and international media attention, the Indian Parliament approved and passed the new Patents Act on March 23rd 2005. The Indian Patents Act of 1970 was thus amended to allow for the granting of pharmaceutical product patents – something the country has not done since 1970.
India was obliged to make these changes in its legislation to comply with its obligation under the World Trade Organization’s TRIPS1 Agreement as of January 1 st 2005. The previous Indian Patents Act did not allow patents on pharmaceutical products and thus enabled Indian companies to make their own generic versions of medicines. Generic production has been crucial for the supply of affordable medicines in the developing world, especially for newer drugs such as antiretrovirals (ARVs) for the treatment of HIV. It has resulted in competition between producers, which has reduced the price of many ARVs from as much as US$15,000 to as little as US$150 per person per year. In addition, due to the lack of product patents on each separate drug, Indian generic manufacturers have been able to combine three different AIDS medicines in one single pill. The availability of these generic fixed-dose combinations has dramatically simplified AIDS treatment in resource-limited settings.