Speech |

U.S. Penalises India for Promoting Access to Medicines Strategies by Placing it on Trade "Watch List"

Speaker: Judit Rius, US Manager, MSF Access Campaign

The U.S. Trade Representative's decision to place India on its annual trade "Watch List" is a bully tactic being used to punish the country for taking steps to ensure access to affordable, lifesaving medicines and to prevent other developing countries from following similar strategies. By placing India on the Watch List in its annual Special 301 Report, the U.S. is disregarding the fact that India has acted within its rights under existing international trade rules and that its measures will increase access to medicines for millions.

The U.S. government, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and most global health programmes obtain the majority of their HIV medicines from Indian generic suppliers. India has become the "pharmacy of the developing world" because it has maintained important, and entirely legal, public health safeguards that are critical to ensuring access to affordable generic medicines. India has the right to ensure a balanced, high-quality patent system by limiting the issuance of frivolous patents and by overriding patents that block access to affordable medicines. 

The Trade Watch List is an attempt by the U.S. to threaten India's ability to continue to produce quality generic medicines. As a medical humanitarian organization that works in countries where access to generic medicines from India are a matter of life and death, we implore the U.S. government to respect established international trade rules and put patients before pharmaceutical profits.

In the past year, the government of India issued its first compulsory license to allow generic production of a patented drug, bringing down the cost of a cancer drug from an astronomical $5000 a month to $175 from a generic producer. Also, in a blow to pharmaceutical companies accustomed to being granted patent extensions for merely making slight modifications to existing drugs, the Indian Supreme Court recently ruled against Novartis in its seven-year challenge to India's patent laws to prevent over-patenting.