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Millions may lose access to necessary generic medicines

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, warns that the “EU-India draft Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could prevent people from all over the world from gaining access to life saving and life prolonging medicines. Much of the developing world depends on India for generic medicines at affordable costs. Restrictions on generic drug production will have a devastating public health impact and affect the right to health for millions of people.”

Special Rapporteur warns that millions may be denied access to generic medicines © UN photos India’s ability to provide low cost generic medicines is primarily due to its intellectual property laws, particularly trade related aspects of patent law, which allows for generic production of safe and efficacious medicines. But some aspects of the FTA which are currently in negotiation between India and the EU threaten this system, he says.

According to Grover, people living with HIV would be disproportionately affected, primarily because the majority of anti-retroviral treatments used to treat the virus are provided through generic medicines produced in India. 

He says that some of the provisions in the FTA that jeopardize medication supplies include data exclusivity, which will delay and restrict market entry of generic medicines, as well as increase prices. Another problem with the draft FTA is stronger intellectual property enforcement provisions, along with border control issues. Border seizures of goods in Europe over the past few years have demonstrated how such provisions have delayed access to medicines for patients in developing countries. Investment provisions that would result in States having to pay compensation for expropriation of property, such as compulsory liscensing, would deter them from using Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to increase access to medicines. 

Grover says that “there has been a lack of transparency over the years while the EU-India FTA was evolving, with no real effort from either India or the EU to allow the public to see drafts or voice concerns. This ignores the right to information, as well as participation in the conduct of public affairs, which are both essential to the right to health. As it stands now, the EU-India draft FTA places trade interests over human rights and because of this, may not be in compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as with other international instruments concerning the right to health. Provisions pertaining to intellectual property in the draft FTA, should be urgently reconsidered.”

26 January 2011