EU, India Leaders Meet To Discuss Trade Deal, Some Concerned Deal Will Jeopardize Drug Access In Developing Countries

On Friday, Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht met to “present a status report on the ongoing free trade talks” that some health advocates fear could limit the supply of generic medications in developing countries, according to Business Standard. “An EU source said the report would signal that talks had made excellent progress and should be wrapped up by early next year,” according to the news service (Aiyar, 12/10).

The Associated Press/Bloomberg writes, “[t]he deal has been four years in the making and could boost trade between the [the EU and India] by almost 30 percent” and “would slash tariffs on products by 90 percent.”

But health advocates fear “a new agreement that raises protection for intellectual property rights for European drugs could have dire consequences for millions of people in developing countries who rely on drugs to treat diseases like AIDS, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease,” the AP writes in a separate article (Cheng, 12/10).

Emerging from a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called for an agreement to be formally sealed in 2011. Meanwhile, “[o]utside the summit meeting, [Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF)] protested possible plans in the deal that would make it tougher for developing nations to buy Indian generic AIDS medicine,” AP/Bloomberg reports (12/10).

“European officials insist the treaty does not limit India’s right to produce generic medicines and dismissed such concerns as scare-mongering,” the AP writes. “But leaked passages of the draft treaty, seen by The Associated Press, give health experts cause for concern. One is a clause known as ‘data exclusivity,’ which raises the bar for Indian companies trying to get their products to the market” (12/10). Such changes “would delay registration of generic ARVs for several years, according to the U.N.,” Reuters reports (Mirgio, 12/9).

“Several years ago, MSF and other organizations including the Clinton Foundation negotiated cheaper priced AIDS drugs for Africa, which they fear could now be threatened by new trade barriers,” the AP writes. “Generic medicines from India cost from one-third to one-tenth the cost of the original brand-name drug. [MSF’s Tido] Von Schoen-Angerer said the cost of medicines could skyrocket if the supply of knockoffs from India is slashed and that donors would only be able to afford a fraction of needed drugs,” according to the news service.

“Activists are also worried about attempts to extend patent protection to beyond 20 years and measures to seize generic medicines as they cross borders,” the AP writes. The article details last year’s seizures of shipments of generic medicines in Europe that were being shipped from Asia and notes advocates concerns that the trade negotiations represent what they see as “an escalation of Europe’s continuing fight against generic drugs,” according to the news service.

The EU is “one of the world’s biggest health aid donors and officials disputed their trade policies would undermine that,” the AP writes. “We have no interest in preventing assistance to people who need drugs,” EU Spokesman John Clancy said.  Roger Bate, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, Anne Roemer-Mahler, a global health expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Ken Shadlen of the London School of Economics are also quoted in the article (12/10).

Meanwhile, on Thursday, people living with HIV/AIDS protested against the deal outside EU offices in Nairobi, Kenya, Reuters reports. The article includes quotes from representatives from MSF and the EU, and patients living with HIV/AIDS (12/9).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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