EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

Regarding ‘Indian pharma firms, NGOs oppose EU free trade deal‘:

Given his 16 years of experience at the head of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), we are surprised to see Mr. Brian Ager’s comment that “there’s no way that anything in the India-EU FTA could or should have any impact on Indian generic companies being able to supply the developing world or their own country with generics”.

The ‘data exclusivity’ regime that the EU and major pharmaceutical companies have pressured India into accepting will undoubtedly undermine India’s crucial role as ‘pharmacy to the world’s poor’. The new rules, which are more stringent than India’s obligations under the WTO, will effectively extend monopoly protection and delay the introduction by Indian firms of generic medicines.

More than five million people worldwide today receive HIV and AIDS treatments thanks to competition from Indian generics. In India, the price of first-line antiretroviral medicine has fallen from more than $10,000/year in 2000 to $67/year in 2010. Without this competition, aid from the EU would not have financed treatment for millions of poor patients.

The EU is a proven world leader in providing international aid, yet now risks bringing shame on itself and allowing its trade policy to directly undermine its own aid policies toward health care. If India agrees to the EU’s FTA demands, medicine prices in India and across the developing world will increase dramatically in the years to come, preventing access to life-enhancing medicine for millions of patients in need.

This unfortunately isn’t a worst-case scenario: it is supported by history. A report produced by Oxfam in March 2007 showed that after similar data exclusivity rules were introduced in Jordan as part of a FTA with the United States, at least 79% of the medicines launched afterwards had no generic competition. Medicines became up to ten-times more expensive to purchase than in neighbouring Egypt, where no such rules existed and contributed to an overall 20% increase in medicine prices.

While Mr Ager is correct to say there “should” be no impact of an EU-India FTA on medicine supply, even Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, recently said “it would be a colossal mistake to introduce data exclusivity in India”.

Katrien Vervoort

Oxfam

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