Cost of life - blog by Sourav Roy

India is the world’s biggest provider of cheap and affordable medicines to developing world. Of course, most countries don't like that! This debate over global drug pricing one controversial issues between developed While poorer nations maintain they have a moral obligation make cheaper, generic drugs available their masses, pharmaceutical companies claim that profits reap are essential research.

Most of the debate is over the difference in Patent laws different countries subscribe to. In 1970, India amended its patent law to have patents awarded only for the processes to make medicines, not for the final products. This helped India to become the pharmacy of the world's poor, and allowed its many drug producers to create generic copies of medicines still patent-protected in other countries — at a fraction of the price charged by Western drug firms. According to the Guardian, It was only when Indian firms began to make affordable copies of HIV drugs that it became possible more than a decade ago to contemplate the treatment of millions of people in impoverished countries of Africa, where the AIDS epidemic was at its worst.

All this seemed to be in jeopardy when 2005, India’s parliament, under Western pressure, amended the patent law comply with World Trade Organization rules, and started grant patents for drugs discovered after 1995. Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis saw as an opportunity acquire over its drug Glivec. Widely recognized one of most important medical discoveries decades, Glivec is treatment myeloid leukaemia has transformed prospects patients rich countries. It a targeted, biological therapy that blocks cancer growth particular gene mutation. The costs much 40 lakh Rupees year, while Indian generic versions were priced at about 1.5 year. Since was invented 1993, sought on slightly altered version, potentially giving it longer period market exclusivity.

After six years of legal battle, in April last year, the Indian Supreme court ruled that small changes and improvements to the drug Glivec did not amount to innovation deserving of a patent. Although the decision was to prevent evergreening of Patents and a purely legal one, the humanist organizations welcomed it. Numerous campaigners hailed it as a major step forward in enabling poor people to access medicines in the developing world. Dr. Unni Karunakara, the head of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) said “This is a huge relief for the millions of patients and doctors in developing countries who depend on affordable medicines from India, and for treatment providers like MSF,”

Novartis threatened to stop supplying India with new medicines if it did not get the patent protection believes its investment and innovation deserve, while continues export about $10 billion worth of generic medicine every year. China together produce more than 80 percent active ingredients all drugs used in United States . Meanwhile, The U.S. pharmaceutical industry has been lobbying hard for International trade agreements, such as the proposed TransPacific Partnership, which will impose stringent rules on developing countries like India.

Have the Novartis, the Bayers, and other 'Big Pharma' syndicates of the world become so self indulgent, that they have forgotten what health care is all about? In a 'global economy', where they conduct most of their research, development and human trials in Asia, Africa and South America, is it not being extremely short sighted when they price their medicines with just the European and American population in mind? Just because the west follows a patent process that has been designed to enable the CEOs and the Executives to earn a hundred times more than the PhDs and engineers innovating in labs, doesn't make it the 'gold' standard that the entire world should aspire to emulate.

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