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Protests over FTA talks in drug biz

Mail Today Bureau     October 7, 2010
As India begins negotiations with the European Union (EU) in the Capital for a free trade agreement (FTA), members of the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+) - mostly those suffering from HIV and other chronic ailments - held protests against the inclusion of intellectual property (IP) provisions in the EU- India FTA. The protestors fear this would prevent Indian generic drug firms from producing and supplying new medicines for the treatment of AIDS and other chronic diseases, which would compel patients to buy unaffordable drugs marketed by multi- national companies (MNCs) in India.

The protestors claimed that countless human lives in developing countries would face hardships if the FTA is finalised without removing the IP provisions.

"Already with the implementation of WTO's TRIPS agreement in 2005, Indian generic companies cannot produce and supply new AIDS medicines that will be needed soon for patients failing second line antiretroviral therapy (ART). The reason - product patents in India," said Manoj Pardesi from ITPC India, who was part of the agitation.

The EU-India FTA, if concluded without removing the IP provisions, will make matters worse as the EU is demanding stipulations that will prolong patent terms by a number of years (patent term extension), delay the registration of generic medicines (data exclusivity), undermine the Indian judiciary's role of protecting patients and make the export of affordable generic medicines difficult (border measures).

The EU has been pursuing a number of IP measures during the FTA negotiations with India and its attack on generics is not limited to India. The EU is pursuing FTAs with similar IP rules with Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and South Africa.

"I'm using lamivudine, zidovudine and nevirapine and I know they are all generics," said Vikas Ahuja from DNP+, who is receiving treatment at a government clinic in New Delhi.

"If generic drugs are not available, I won't be able to care for my family. I won't be able to care for myself. We have to stop the FTA to stay alive," he added.

The EU-India FTA negotiations are expected to conclude before the end of 2010.

Courtesy: Mail Today

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