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India Pledges to Not Negotiate Stronger Rights for Pharmaceuticals

Issued: July 01 2011

The joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has praised the assurances made by Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma that the country would not negotiate stronger intellectual property rights for pharmaceuticals.

The assurance that India would reject efforts to include ‘data exclusivity’ clauses in bilateral trade agreements came at a meeting between Sharma and UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé.

“We reject data exclusivity clauses in free trade agreements,” said Sharma.

“Millions of people will die if India cannot produce generic antiretroviral drugs, and Africa will be the most affected,” said Sidibé. “For me, it is an issue of life or death.”

India’s pharmaceutical industry produces more than 85% of the first-line antiretroviral drugs used to treat people living with HIV. The cost of the least expensive first generation treatment regimen has dropped to less than US$86 per patient per year, but as increasing numbers of people move towards more efficacious and tolerable first-line treatment, drug prices could double compared to first-generation regimens. In addition, as patients develop drug resistance and require more expensive and patent-protected second- and third-line antiretroviral medicines, some projections indicate treatment costs escalating by as much as twenty-fold.

“The Government of India reaffirms its full commitment to ensure that quality generic medicines, including antiretroviral drugs, are seamlessly available, and to make them available to all countries,” said Sharma. “India will also use the flexibilities allowed under TRIPS, including the use of compulsory licensing, to ensure that people living with HIV have access to all life-saving medicines.”

Sidibé called on India, together with Brazil, South Africa, China and Russia, to “forge an alliance with other high-income countries to ensure that no single person in the world dies because they could not afford to buy life-saving medicines or health care.”
An estimated 15 million people are eligible for antiretroviral treatment in low- and middle-income countries, and about 6.6 million people have access to HIV treatment. The Government of India provides free antiretroviral treatment to more than 420,000 people living with HIV in India.


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