HIV/AIDS Advocates Voice Opposition to Indian Legislation That Would Prohibit Production of Generic Versions of Patented Drugs
HIV/AIDS advocates in India on Monday "stepped up pressure" against "controversial" legislation that would change the country's patent laws to prohibit the domestic production of low-cost, generic versions of patented drugs, including antiretroviral drugs, AFP/Turkish Press reports (AFP/Turkish Press, 3/21). India's government on Friday proposed the legislation in parliament. India's generic drug industry has made less-expensive medications available in India and abroad for more than 30 years, making it possible for many people in developing countries to receive treatment. India, which is the third-largest producer and a major exporter of generic drugs, previously did not recognize international patents, allowing the country to produce generic versions of medications patented in other countries as long as they use a different manufacturing process. However, the bill would change India's laws to bring it in line with a World Trade Organization agreement on intellectual property that it signed in 1994. Legal experts and AIDS advocates have asked parliament to reject the order or allow it to expire in six months so that it can be revised (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/18). "The life and health of hundreds of thousands of people globally depends on decisions taken in India this week," Ellen 't Hoen, director of policy advocacy and research at Medecins Sans Frontieres, said, adding that about 350,000 HIV/AIDS patients using antiretroviral drugs in developing countries rely on Indian generics (Talwar Badam, AP/Yahoo! News, 3/21). HIV/AIDS advocates also argued that the legislation would make antiretrovirals too expensive for HIV-positive patients in India, the majority of whom use generic drugs (Katyal, Reuters, 3/22).
Bills Would Designate India as 16th PEPFAR Focus Country
Lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate last week introduced bills (HR 1408, S 674) that would designate India as the 16th country to receive funding through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Hindustan Times reports (Hindustan Times, 3/21). PEPFAR is a five-year, $15 billion program that currently directs funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to 15 focus countries, including Botswana, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Haiti, Guyana and Vietnam (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/4). "President Bush's three main goals for PEPFAR are to prevent seven million new cases of HIV by 2008, to treat two million infected people and to care for 10 million individuals affected by HIV/AIDS," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), co-chair of the House Caucus on India and Indian Americans and a co-sponsor of the bill, said, adding, "By designating India as the 16th country under PEPFAR, the president will meet and surpass these three goals" (PTI/New Kerala, 3/18). Del. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), said, "India already has the second most cases of HIV/AIDS in the world and will have the most cases in the world within six years. Action must be taken now to combat this disease." He added that he hopes "this issue receives the national and international attention it deserves" (Hindustan Times, 3/21).