November 22, 2013

Time to Kill The Foreign Pill!

Back in 2003, George Washington University started the GWU India Project, a project that gave dramatic insights into how the 'business' of lobbying works to a nation's detriment. Private companies and associations were found to be the funding entities for R&D and consulting; and in turn, these entities got public policy and judicial decisions fabricated and influenced to their benefit with respect to Intellectual Property (IP). Many views on critical agendas were deliberately made one-sided, in favour of these so called funding entities. Various US lobbyists were part of these efforts and tried to manipulate decisions and views of many Indian lawmakers and thought leaders.

Foreign Pharma has always kept a close eye on Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers and related drug legislations, especially as most of our manufacturers are infamous for producing low cost generic unbranded drugs, whose branded versions are being sold at prices that are phenomenally high and out of reach of those millions of Indians who are waiting for lifesaving drugs and struggling with treatable diseases. And this generic drugs clearly work to the detriment of foreign pharma companies.

Consequently, US pharma giants have been continually lobbying politically with their government to pressurise the Indian government to insert a cap on permits that are issued to domestic companies for making low-cost copies of patented drugs. Even companies like Pfizer and Merck met the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) to lobby against compulsory licenses being issued by India. For the uninitiated, a compulsory licence is a permission issued to any local manufacturer allowing him to produce the so-called ‘copied versions’ of patented medicines without any prior permission of the original patent owner. For instance, Novartis’ anti-leukemia drug Glivec costs an unaffordable Rs. 1.2 lakh per month, while its generic formulation, made by domestic manufacturers, costs nothing more than Rs. 8,000. In another similar case, in March 2012, India’s Patent Controller issued a compulsory license to an Indian generic manufacturer to produce Sorafenib Tosylate, which was being sold by Bayer for $4500 per person per month in India as kidney and liver cancer medicine.

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