Beware of global peers, Centre tells pharma cos

Told to guard against rivals' deep pockets

Beware of global peers, Centre tells pharma cos

With the growing voice of developing countries like India, Brazil and China, the big pharmaceutical firms will not be able to get the WTO’s Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement changed to their advantage, Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said here. Alternatively, they would resort to “every trick in the book for ever-greening of their patents”, he said. When a drug patent is renewed after its expiry on frivolous grounds to retain a monopoly, it is referred to as ‘ever-greening’.

India recently dragged the EU to World Trade Organisations against repeated seizures of off-patent Indian drugs en route to Africa and Latin America. The TRIPS Agreement is considered favourable to the drugs and pharmaceutical industry of developing nations, which have excelled in off-patent, affordable medicine.

Leveraging on off-patent generic drugs, India has a strong US$22 billion pharmaceutical industry, grossing in about US$10 billion from exports. Khullar said India, Brazil and South Africa have emerged as influential voices in the multilateral fora.

“I can’t see them (developed countries) having the clout all the way to go to the WTO and actually try to brazen through a revised TRIPS agreement, which will be heard and accepted by China, Brazil, South Africa and India. That day is over.” Khullar said in this backdrop, new ways are being attempted to form cartels among the rich nations to safeguard their markets and industries.

“And now what they can do outside that (WTO)... they can form little clubs (like ACTA) to harass you (developing nations) to lobby against you,” Khullar, India’s chief negotiator at the WTO, said. An Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is being negotiated between 11 economies, including the US, EU, Japan and Canada, which proposes to widen the scope of protection and set higher standards for enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Khullar also asked the industry to keep the government informed about trade barriers they are facing so that the negotiators could take up these issues at multi-lateral fora.
“Provide your feedback... if you (industry) want us (government) to be intelligent negotiators,” he said.

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