E-DRUG: India refuses to hike cancer drug price
[To learn more about compulsory licensing under TRIPS, read this FAQ of the
World Trade Organization.
http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/public_health_faq_e.htm (fix URL in
browser if broken). India is free to determine whether a compulsory licence is
required or not and has followed all steps under TRIPS i.e. tried to negotiate
a voluntary licence with the licence holder and arranged for the licence holder
to be paid a royalty. - Moderator]
India refuses to hike cancer drug price
THE HINDU, 12th July 2012
Over the summer one thing about U.S. President Barack Obama has become clear.
His hawkishness in foreign policy affects not only nations like Pakistan and
Yemen, which are saddled with U.S. drones carrying out targeted assassinations
on their soil. India too is very much a victim of Mr. Obama�s harshest policy
campaigns, albeit in a less headline-grabbing area: cancer medication pricing.
In a hearing on Capitol Hill that slipped under the radar of media scrutiny, a
top Obama administration official blatantly pressed the case for the deployment
of American lobbying power to keep the price of cancer drug Nexavar closer to
the $5,000-per-month-mark that it now sells at in India.
In doing so, Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO),
Teresa Rea, was equally pushing for Congressional approval for the Obama White
House�s strong-arm tactics to bully Indian manufacturers of Nexavar�s generic
equivalent into giving up their plan to sell their product at a much more
affordable $157 per month.
An insightful Huffington Post investigative report on the covert campaign by
the PTO argued that during the 70-minute hearing, Ms. Rea �repeatedly
castigated India's government for approving the generic drug, calling the move
an egregious violation of World Trade Organisation treaties.�� According to
reports Ms. Rea said that she was �dismayed and surprised,�� by India�s
decision and admitted to �personally�� engaging �various agencies of the Indian
government�� in efforts to knock it down.
It is hard to miss the contrast between Mr. Obama�s domestic policies to keep
drug prices low via the Supreme-Court-validated Affordable Care Act and his
administration�s persistent efforts to protect drug firm revenues even in
developing nations such as India, which have a toxic combination of poverty and
A principal stakeholder that would appear to be deriving vast profits under the
aegis of the U.S. President�s protection is none other than pharmaceuticals
giant Bayer AG. Despite the Germany-based company�s best lobbying efforts the
Government of India has refused to bow to U.S. pressure and �continues to offer
the generic alternative, which was approved in March after several months of
negotiations with [the company],�� according to the investigative study.
Following India�s decision not to yield to the clout of the deep-pocketed
Bayer, whose earnings touched $3.4 billion last year, Indian pharmaceutical
Natco Pharma obtained permission to sell the generic drug and pay a royalty of
six per cent on the revenue derived to Bayer. This arrangement is a widely
accepted trade practice called �compulsory licensing,�� and is supported by WTO
treaties, �an effort to ensure that good health care is not merely a privilege
for the rich,�� and a process that is ironically used by the U.S. to address
domestic drug shortages, the HuffPost report noted.
After her acerbic performance before Congress was criticised on the grounds
that compulsory licensing was consistent with the WTO, Ms. Rea in a blog post
reluctantly agreed that it �can be permissible under the TRIPS Agreement.��
Yet apparently adamant on blocking India�s efforts to make essential drugs
affordable to the vast majority of its poor, she added that the U.S. was
�trying to stop the granting of further compulsory licenses.
Dr Gopal Dabade,
Dharwad 580 002