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IPS Looks At Anticipated Impact Of Free-Trade Talks On India’s Generic Drug Industry

With reports that ongoing negotiations between India and the European Union are expected to end in a free-trade agreement “by the end of August,” Inter Press Service examines the concerns among drug manufacturers and exporters over how the agreement might reduce growth in India’s generic medicines industry.

“India’s 7.5-billion-dollar drug industry is among the world’s top five bulk medicine producers. It is also among the world’s 20 top pharmaceutical exporters, with its export business growing at 17.8 percent per year,” the news service writes. “A large segment of its reasonably priced generic drugs, including life-saving HIV anti-retrovirals and anti-cancer drugs, are exported to other developing nations in Asia and Africa. But now Indian drug exporters are worried that any potential growth for their business overseas is bound to disappear should India capitulate to several EU stipulations in the trade talks,” according to IPS.

The article describes how the free-trade agreement talks between India and the EU have included discussions over the “Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA), the World Customs Organisation’s Standards to be Employed by Customs for Uniform Rights Enforcement (SECURE), and the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force (IMPACT)” – all negotiations that developing countries have protested because they felt they were “formulated in secrecy and without their consent,” according to the news service.

The article looks at how the ACTA’s handling of counterfeit drugs has resulted in the classification of some generic drugs as restricted, “in turn allowing their seizure in transit through EU countries,” IPS writes. “Essentially, such acts override previous laws under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that allowed patented drugs classified as ‘essential’ or crucial to health to be manufactured in developing countries,” according to the news service.

While the EU has maintained “nothing in the proposed agreement would limit India’s freedom to produce and export life-saving drugs in accordance with the TRIPS agreement,” leaders from India involved in the free-trade agreement talks, such as India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma maintain talks are still underway.

The article also looks at how efforts to reduce counterfeit medicines and a World Trade Organization dispute yet to be settled between the EU and India might figure in to free-trade talks (Acharya, 8/3).

IRIN/PlusNews Examines How IP Rights, Trade Rules Could Affect Access To Drugs In Developing Countries

IRIN/PlusNews reports on how “tighter global intellectual property rights and trade rules” might threaten the access populations living in developing countries have to medicines. “While the patents on many older, first-line ARVs have expired, leaving generic manufacturers free to produce them, newer, less toxic and more effective drugs are patented and priced out of reach of less developed nations,” the news service writes.

The article describes the licensing requirements for generic manufacturers, and advocates’ criticisms that such procedures place too much control in the hands of patent holders. The piece also notes the accusations by some that the U.S. and EU have been increasing pressures on countries to “implement stricter intellectual property regulations,” and the reasoning behind such assertions.

The piece also notes how patent pools, such as the one operated by UNITAID, are able to drive down the prices of medicines, and includes comments by Ellen ‘t Hoen, UNITAID’s senior adviser for intellectual property and medicines patent pool and Matthew Kavanagh, director of U.S. advocacy at Health Global Access Project (8/2).

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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.