'HIV drugs to get costlier in India'

“My husband is HIV positive but I and my son are not. If the European Union-India trade agreement is signed, then we will not be able to afford the medicines and the family will be in ruins,” said Rosalin from Mizoram.

She came to attend a protest rally, attended by hundreds of people, against the EU-India Free Trade Agreement which, if signed, threatens the production of generic drugs by Indian companies. 

This will increase the cost of medicines a great deal in India. India is called the ‘pharmacy of the developing world’ because it produces quality affordable generic medicines which are used to treat patients in developing countries of Latin America and Africa, apart from India.

“From 1970-2005 Indian government encouraged production of locally made medicines to provide cheap drugs. With the kind of agreements that India has been signing in the recent past, this production is slowly being threatened. 

Such agreements will make existing generic drugs illegal and won’t allow new drugs to be created, ” said Leena Menghaney of Médecins Sans Frontières, (MSF), an international medical aid organisation.

She listed the example of the price of first-line HIV medicines that has dropped by more than 99 per cent. It was US$10,000 per person per year in 2000 and is now roughly $150 per person. More than 80 per cent of HIV medicines used to treat 6.6 million people in developing countries come from Indian manufacturers.

“The EU wants India to agree to Intellectual Property enforcement measures that could block medicines at European ports on their way to patients in other developing countries, and could even draw treatment providers into court proceedings.

“These provisions are designed to delay the entry of generic products into the market  and will adversely affect the right to health of patients not only in India but across the developing world,” said Anand Grover, Director of  Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit.

The rally was organised by MSF and farmers organisations. They demanded the government to make the draft report of the agreement public so that all stakeholders can debate and discuss the consequences. 

Friday’s protest was organised on the basis of a leaked text of the draft on three different occasions – once in 2009 in 2010 and again in 2011.

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