New Indian Rules Could ‘Effectively End’ Country’s Generic Antiretroviral Drug Production, Jeopardize Health of Millions, Editorial Says
If the Indian Parliament approves a decree that would "effectively end the copycat industry" for antiretroviral drugs patented since 1995, generic drug competition, which "drives down" the cost of patented drugs, would be eliminated in the country and poor HIV-positive people would be cut off from the supply of affordable medicines, a New York Times editorial says. India has become "the world's supplier of cheap AIDS drugs" because it gives patents to the process of making medicines, rather than to individual drugs, according to the editorial. India was required to institute patents on products including patented antiretroviral drugs as of Jan. 1 because it signed the World Trade Organization's agreement on "intellectual property" in 1994, according to the editorial. However, WTO rules say that countries can issue compulsory licenses for generic production of patented drugs that "protect public health," the editorial says. The decree, which is "so tilted toward the pharmaceutical industry that it does not even take advantage" of the WTO exception for public health, would make getting compulsory licenses "slow and difficult," according to the editorial. India's parliament should change the decree to "expedite" compulsory licenses, the editorial says, concluding, "India's parliamentarians must keep in mind that this arcane dispute is actually a crucial battleground for the health of hundreds of millions of people in India and worldwide" (New York Times, 1/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.