Indian Government Must Find Ways To Continue To Provide Generic Antiretrovirals Under New Patent Law, Opinion Piece Says
Although India is "emerging as a global economic powerhouse," the country's reputation will be harmed if the government does not find ways to continue providing low-cost generic antiretroviral drugs to developing countries following the passage of a measure revising the country's patent laws, Robert Radtke, senior vice president for programs at the Asia Society, writes in a Financial Times opinion piece (Radtke, Financial Times, 3/24). The measure, which was passed by both houses of parliament this week and is expected to be signed into law by President Abdul Kalam, would prohibit the domestic production of low-cost, generic versions of patented medicines, including antiretrovirals. Under India's current patent process, the country's generic drug industry has made less-expensive medications available worldwide for more than 30 years, making it possible for many people in developing countries to receive treatment for various diseases. However, the Indian government has said that bringing the country's laws in line with a World Trade Organization intellectual property agreement it signed in 1994 and recognizing product patents are necessary for the nation's drug industry to pursue additional drug research and development and attract foreign investors. Under the newly passed measure, drug makers that want to continue production of generic drugs must pay royalties to the manufacturers of the patented drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/24). Although recognizing patents could encourage more drug research and development, the move could be "potentially catastrophic" to HIV-positive people in developing nations who depend on antiretroviral drugs produced in India, Radtke writes, concluding that India must continue to be a leader in Asia in fighting HIV/AIDS, "not only for its own sake but for the long-term health and stability of Asia, Africa and the world at large" (Financial Times, 3/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.