India Must Resist US Pressure on Generic Drugs, African Leaders to Tell Modi

Monday, October 26, 2015

In his ‘Mann ki baat‘ radio show on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proudly spoke about how India will host 54 heads of state from Africa for the first time to reinforce “our nation’s historical and cultural links’ with African countries.

However, invoking this very spirit, the visiting African leaders will place before the Prime Minister an issue of life and death for their peoples in which India can play a critical role – the export of cheap and affordable generic medicines for the cure of AIDS and other deadly diseases. The African heads of state will urge Modi to resist growing pressure from the United States government and Western drug multinationals on India to stop exporting cheap generics to Africa.

Kenya’s ambassador in India, Florence Imisa Weche told this writer in an interview for RSTV that the issue of affordable medicine imports from India – especially for treating AIDS – is a matter of great concern for African nations. Weche indicated that the visiting African leaders will urge Modi not to dilute India’s current status as the “Pharmacy of the Third World”. This comes after the South African health minister expressed similar apprehensions a few months ago. The India-Africa summit will provide an opportunity to address this question.

The US pharma lobby wants India to limit the production of affordable generics to only what is required for Indian consumers under a “voluntary licensing scheme” and not produce drugs for third country patients. Some Indian companies, lured by higher profits, are already striking cosy deals with US pharma giants. The NDA government has shown a tendency to assist this collaboration through the back door, by signalling its willingness to dilute India’s pro-public health intellectual property policy which has been widely hailed in the developing world. India’s existing policy has enabled the price of HIV drugs to fall 99% – from $10,000 per person per year in 2000 to $100 per year today. Other diseases like tuberculosis, hepatitis and malaria which afflict millions of people in Africa also need affordable generic medicines exported from India.


Source: The Wire (link opens in a new window)

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