PhRMA Representatives Meet With Officials In India To Discuss Compulsory Licensing

During a visit with government officials, industry leaders and NGOs in India last week, representatives from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a U.S. lobbying group that represents the country’s pharmaceutical industry and biotechnology companies, addressed “the Indian government’s proposal to allow local drugmakers to make low-cost version of patented drugs so that they can be made available to patients,” the Economic Times reports. “Issuing compulsory licensing is not a long-term solution and will be counterproductive,” PhRMA Executive Vice President Christopher Singer said.

According to the article, India’s “Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (Dipp) is exploring the possibility of issuing compulsory licences, a provision that allows generic drug manufacturers to make low-cost versions of patented medicines by giving royalty to the patent holder,” the newspaper reports (10/23).

“Specifying that the organisation cannot legally force its members to lower prices of their drugs and the member companies were individually negotiating with the respective countries, the PhRMA leaders said India has to find a mechanism to ensure cheaper prices for drugs and their members were ready to cooperate with the government and other agencies for programmes like insurance coverage to make medicines affordable to Indians,” writes.

The news service also quotes Singer as saying, “We welcome the Patent law of India but there are many concerns. India has to build on the law with regard to the enforcement. It takes long time to resolve the cases and our companies lose out largely during this period. We have asked the government to find some way out like speedy disposal of cases or chances of injections. The policy makers should recognise the dampening effect of these cases,” Singer said, adding, “India has the potential to emerge as a leader in the pack, with right policies for innovation” (Alexander, 10/23).  

Last week, a group of NGOs and experts in India’s pharmaceutical sector expressed “deep concern over the takeover of a string of Indian pharma companies by [multinational corporations] MNCs and also the proposed visit of U.S.-based [Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America] PhRMA delegation to meet key Indian officials,” reports. The group has “called for the imposition of an [Foreign Direct Investment] FDI cap of 40% in the pharma sector and for the liberal use of the compulsory license provisions of the Indian Patents Act to secure access to patented medicines and therefore lower the costs of medicines,” reports, in a separate article.

In a letter, addressed to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the group writes, “We are strongly of the opinion that an FDI cap on foreign ownership of pharma companies and liberal use of compulsory licenses are two vital avenues open to India to find ways to ensure much wider access to essential medicines to [its] citizens.” The article details the references made in the letter to India’s role in the production and distribution of medicines to other countries as well and names the signatories to the letter (Shankar, 10/21).

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