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India’s Trade Minister Says EU Will To Take Steps To Prevent Seizure Of Generic Medicines

“India believes a row with the European Union over seizures of generic drugs will be settled without litigation, Trade Minister Anand Sharma said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports (Lynn, 10/20).

Sharma’s statements come after “India and Brazil in May launched a legal challenge at the World Trade Organization against the European Union after several shipments of generic medicines were seized or delayed at EU ports,” Agence-France Presse writes (10/20).

“The seizure led health activists to argue that the EU and other rich countries were attacking generic drug production in developing countries under the guise of pursuing counterfeits in order to bolster the intellectual property rights of drugs companies at the expense of poor people’s access to medicine,” Reuters reports adding that “Sharma said that India’s generics industry had made a huge contribution to public health worldwide and India would not discuss anything in the negotiations with Brussels for a trade pact that would jeopardise health or undermine the industry.”

“It is very clear that the generics ensured availability at affordable prices of these medicines to poor patients in poor countries, breaking the suffocating stranglehold of the multinational companies,” Sharma said (10/20). According to AFP, “Sharma said Wednesday the EU’s trade chief had assured him that rules would be amended to prevent any seizure of generic medicines transiting through the 27-nation bloc.” Such assurances came from meetings between Sharma and the former and current EU trade commissioner, the news service notes (10/20).

In related news, Bangkok Post reports that David Lipman, ambassador to the EU Delegation to Thailand, on Thursday “pledged to ensure that Thais living with HIV/AIDS have access to essential and affordable medicines” after that Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS “said on Wednesday it planned to petition him over aspects of free trade talks under way between the EU and India.”

According to the newspaper, “Activists are worried the free trade pact would limit access to generic medicines including those related to treatment of HIV/AIDS which Thailand imports from India.”

“The EU is fully committed to ensuring access to essential, affordable medicines especially for the less developed parts of the world,” Lipman said, adding, “[T]he EU has put forward a clause in the negotiations to ensure that nothing in the proposed agreement would limit India’s freedom to produce and export medicines in accordance with the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) Agreement and the Doha Declaration on Trips and Public Health, notably through compulsory licensing” (10/22).

Intellectual Property Watch Examines Concerns Discussed At Recent Meeting About Counterfeit Meds Versus Generics

Intellectual Property Watch reports on a meeting about counterfeit medicines that included leaders from Brazil, India and South Africa in Geneva. “Speakers, including officials, regulators, a United Nations special rapporteur and nongovernmental representatives, levelled strong criticism at those who traffic in counterfeit medicines or in substandard medicines,” IP Watch writes. “But they also had sharp words for enforcement efforts from developed countries and their brand-name producers, especially charging intent to confuse the public about generics.”

“Placing originator pharmaceutical companies in the role of policing the quality and safety of generic drugs in developing countries based on their IPRs [intellectual property rights] holdings is ceding an essential role of public health authorities, and government more generally,” said Frederick Abbott, law professor at Florida State University. “It is putting the regulated companies in charge of regulation, a rather problematic turn,” he added.

The piece continues: “Access to medicines is influenced by a variety of factors, from regulations to intellectual property. Price can be an ‘absolute barrier,’ said Gopinathan Achamkulangare, the Indian ambassador to the United Nations. … ‘The deliberate confusion created by some interest groups, conflating the concept of counterfeiting – which has a specific meaning in intellectual property law – with issues related to the quality, safety and efficacy of medicines has further confounded the issue,’ he said.”

The article further elaborates on the concerns expressed by some over growing confusion created by “a push for conflating counterfeit medicines with genuine generics.” The piece includes comments by: Mandisa Hela, manager of the National Regulation Authority in the South African Department of Health; Sisule Musungu, president of IQSensato think tank; Michelle Childs, director of policy advocacy at Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF); Erika Veiga of the Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency; Sangeeta Shashikant of Third World Network; Maria Nazareth Farani Azevedo, Brazilian Ambassador to the U.N.; and William Haddad, who formerly worked under Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) (New/Mara, 10/22).

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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.