The Dangers of the Indian Government’s Flirtation with U.S. Pharma and Risks for India’s Coherent, Pro-Public Health IP Policy
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and his delegation, who have been visiting the U.S. for the first time, have spent considerable time and energy in courting U.S. business interests. On Monday, September 29, the Indian PM met with 17 chief executives of major U.S. companies in joint and individual meetings1 and on September 30 he met with the U.S.-India Business Council comprising over 300 top U.S. companies.2 Prime Minister Modi is promising to open India to more direct foreign investment and to further liberalize the Indian economy to make it easier for multinational corporations to operate there. To the dismay of health activists worldwide, the US administration appears to have successfully used the Indian PM’s visit to maneuver the Indian government into committing to a joint mechanism on intellectual property. The benign sounding “High Level Intellectual Property (IP) Working Group” is designed to pressure India into changing its interpretation and application of health safeguards in India’s intellectual property policy, ultimately undermining India’s role as the pharmacy for the poor.
Even before the PM’s visit, alarm bells have been ringing within the global health community over statements made by India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Nirmala Sitharaman. The relentless public and private pressure from both the U.S. government and Big Pharma,3 appear to have prompted the Commerce Minister to announce a review of India’s IP policy with the aim of boosting innovation, improving administrative procedures, and potentially strengthening the country’s patent regime. In announcing the creation of a think tank to make the patent system “more robust,” Minister Sitharaman specifically mentioned that “developed nations are picking holes in India’s IPR laws.”
- Health Care