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Challenges To India's Role As Global Pharmaceutical Supplier

“India has had a positive global impact through its supply of vast quantities of low-cost, good-quality generic medicines, which have saved or prolonged millions of lives … [b]ut there are also many factors that may hinder the continuation of the [country’s] role as chief supplier of medicines to developing countries,” Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre in Geneva, writes in an Inter Press Service opinion piece. He examines the history of generic drug production in India and says the 1995 World Trade Organization TRIPS agreement negatively affected the country’s ability to produce generic drugs. Though “India has one of the best patent laws in the world that still gives some space to its producers to make generic drugs, … it is also true that the old policy space has been eroded because many new drugs have, since 2005, been patented by multinational companies that are selling them at exorbitant prices,” Khor writes.

He writes there are concerns over negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union, adding, “Such agreements usually contain provisions such as data exclusivity and extension of the patent term, which prevents or hinders generic production.” Finally, he says large foreign drug companies are buying Indian pharmaceutical firms, raising concerns about “whether they will continue to supply the developing world with cheap generic medicines when this may be in conflict with their own branded products.” Khor concludes that “a strategy is needed that involves the government and the drug companies, which ensures that the local drug industry continues to thrive; that it produces not only existing medicines but also new medicines even if they are patented; and that they are supplied at cheap prices not only in India but to the developing world” (9/25).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.