ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Unethical and Unwarranted Assurance

The Government of India gives "private assurances" to its friends in Big Pharma in the United States.

The compulsory licence is the definitive instrument in the amended Patents Act of 2003 that ensures that there is a way out in case patented products go out of reach of the sick and the needy. Specifically, compulsory licence provisions award manufacturing rights to Indian pharma companies if a patent on a medicine is not worked in India, or if the medicine is expensive, and/or if the patent holder is not able to meet the reasonable requirements of those needing the medicine in India. The Indian manufacturer, Natco, got a compulsory licence awarded to it for Bayer’s sorafenib tosylate, used in certain kinds of renal and liver cancers, in accordance with these provisions. At the time, Bayer’s price for this drug in India was Rs 2,88,425 per person per month while Natco’s was Rs 8,800 per person per month. Novartis was selling its anti-cancer drug imatinib mesylate at a high price of Rs 1.2 lakh per month per patient (Rs 40,000 per 10 tablets) during the days it was arguing before the Indian courts on the drug’s patent worthiness. The patent was denied on considerations of Section 3(d) of the Patents Act. The Rajasthan Medical Services Corporation’s recent procurement price of imatinib 400 mg tablets is almost 1,400 times less at Rs 29 per 10 tablets.

These developments are not welcome tidings for bodies like the US–India Business Council (USIBC). Its president famously has declaimed in his report of February 2016 that feeds into this year’s Special 301 review of the United States Trade Representative (USTR):

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