Protesters Call On Indian Government To Reject Free Trade Agreement With EU

Thousands of HIV-positive people from India and across Asia marched in New Delhi on Wednesday to protest the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union (EU) and India, “which [some argue] has provisions that would restrict access to affordable medicines,” the Times of India reports. “Though government officials have been claiming that none of the provisions in the FTA would affect India’s ability to produce cheap and effective medicines, the fact that the government is not making the documents of the agreement public is raising suspicion about the actual nature of the contents,” the newspaper writes (3/3).

“More than 2,000 demonstrators … marched through downtown New Delhi” in a protest that was “staged to coincide with ‘sensitive’ negotiations in Brussels between India and the 27-member EU on the market-opening pact, which has been under discussion since 2007, MSF [Medecins Sans Frontieres] said,” Agence France-Presse reports (3/2).

According to the Hindu, there is concern over intellectual property (IP) provisions in the FTA involving data exclusivity, which patient advocates believe “would act like a patent and block generic versions from the market, even for drugs that are already off patent, or do not merit a patent to begin with under India’s strict patent law.” The Hindu reports that “[a]ffordable medicines produced in India have played a major role in scaling up AIDS treatment to more than five million people across Asia, Africa and Latin America” (Dhar, 3/3).

“More than 80% of the AIDS drugs our medical practitioners use to treat 175,000 people in developing countries are affordable generics from India,” said Paul Cawthorne of MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, according to an MSF press release. “Beyond AIDS, we rely on producers in India for drugs to treat other illnesses, such as tuberculosis and malaria. We cannot afford to let our patients’ lifeline be cut,” he added (3/2). AFP writes that “Indian-made generics have pushed the average yearly cost of anti-HIV drug treatments down from $10,000 per patient in 2000 to $70 in 2010” (3/2).

The Jakarta Globe discusses AIDS advocates who traveled to the protest from Indonesia and features comments by HIV/AIDS advocate Sindi Fitriarti Putri, a spokeswoman for the Indonesian Network of People Living With HIV, and Sri Indrawati, Indonesia’s director general for pharmaceuticals (Sagita, 3/2). 

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