Thursday 15 march 2012 4 15 /03 /Mar /2012 20:09

Does EU/India free trade agreement spell the end of cheap drugs for poor countries?

 

La negociación entre India y la UE amenaza la 'farmacia de los pobres'

El acuerdo de libre comercio limitaría los genéricos que abastecen al 90% de personas con VIH El pleito de Novartis por una patente simboliza el conflicto y moviliza a las ONG

 

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Manifestantes en Nueva York protestan por la pelea legal de la compañía suiza por sus patentes en India. / SPENCER PLATT (AFP)

 

"La vida de millones de personas en todo el mundo depende de las medicinas genéricas, baratas, pero efectivas, que produce India. Ahora mismo se está negociando con nuestras vidas". Habla Loon Gangte, el presidente de la asociación de Nueva Delhi de personas con VIH, (DNP, por sus siglas en inglés). Gangte se refiere al Acuerdo de Libre Comercio (ALC) que se se negocia entre India y la Unión Europeaque se espera quede sellado "a finales de otoño". Esta es la misma preocupación de otras asociaciones de pacientes y ONG.

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Ya existen limitaciones a los genéricos, pero se pretenden crear nuevas barreras y "la UE ha estado presionando a India para que acepte una serie de medidas que afectarán la producción, registro y distribución de genéricos”, asegura Médicos Sin Fronteras (MSF) en un comunicado. Las medidas de refuerzo de la propiedad intelectual o la “exclusividad de datos” podrían ser un obstáculo para que India siga produciendo y exportando genéricos, según la ONG que lidera la oposición contra estas disposiciones en el ALC. Manifestaciones de pacientes y activistas han salido a las calles de India, Nepal, Malasia, Sudáfrica, Camerún, EE UU o Reino Unido.

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Actualmente el 92% de los fármacos que usan los pacientes con VIH o el 60% del tratamiento contra la malaria del mundo en desarrollo son genéricos producidos en India, según datos de la farmacéutica local. Gobiernos, agencias de la ONU -como Unicef y ONG las utilizan para pacientes de bajos recursos en todo el mundo.

India se convirtió en la ‘farmacia de los pobres’ porque antes no otorgaba patentes y las farmacéuticas del país comenzaron a producir genéricos de calidad. Aunque a partir de 2005, por sus compromisos con la Organización del Comercio, se han establecido algunas regulaciones, muchos medicamentos genéricos están ahora disponibles a una fracción del coste de los originales. Por ejemplo los antirretrovirales que en 2000 costaban hasta 9.000 euros por persona por año, ahora están accesibles en genérico por lo equivalente a 50 euros.

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Ante las acusaciones, la UE asegura en un comunicado que reconoce “el derecho y capacidad de India de exportar medicamentos esenciales a otros países en desarrollo con problemas de salud pública”. Pero en India hay muchas reticencias y las negociaciones del acuerdo han sido a puerta cerrada. Las filtraciones indican que las disposiciones sí afectarían a los genéricos, aseguran activistas y fuentes de la industria farmacéutica. “Las propuestas en el ALC están diseñadas para servir a los intereses privados de las compañías a expensas de la salud y el interés público de los países en desarrollo y deben ser rechazadas”, afirma el relator especial de Salud para la ONU, Anand Grover.

Las farmacéuticas demandan más transparencia en el tratado. “Pedimos al Gobierno que las negociaciones sean de conocimiento público. Hay algunas cláusulas donde no se debe ceder para proteger el tratamiento de personas en todo el mundo en desarrollo”, asegura Y. K. Hamied, director general de Cipla, el productor más grande de genéricos para el VIH.

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El secretario general de la Alianza Farmacéutica de India, Dilip Shah, asegura que la UE ha ido cambiado de estrategia y que ahora pretende más restricciones a la industria que representa. “Esperamos que India no ceda con estas restricciones que dañarían fuertemente a las farmacéuticas y a su producción y exportación de genéricos”, dice. Los responsables indios de las negociaciones del ALC no han contestado a llamadas y correos electrónicos de este periódico.

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India y la UE han hecho público su interés de sellar el ALC cuanto antes. Esperan dinamizar su comercio bilateral, que actualmente es de 80 mil millones de euros. La UE, en medio de la crisis económica, se vería beneficiada del creciente mercado indio, mientras que India daría un paso más en sus intenciones de convertirse en superpotencia. Sin embargo, el de las patentes en medicina podrían ser el acuerdo más difícil de alcanzar, según los analistas.

Una batalla emblemática en el campo de los genéricos en India es la de Novartis por la patente de su anticancerígeno Glivec. A pesar de que en 2007 la farmacéutica suiza perdió el caso en un emblemático juicio, ha apelado y el próximo mes de marzo tendrá una audiencia ante el Tribunal Supremo, en un caso que puede tener gran trascendencia y que ha movilizado a los activistas.

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El día 15 de febrero de 2012 , al exponer el caso ante el tribunal, el ejecutivo de Novartis Thomas Wellauer dijo: "Si las leyes internacionales sobre patentes son compatibles, el resultado será un aumento de la inversión para la investigación y el desarrollo de la biomédica en India. Solo si las patentes son respetadas podremos continuar con la investigación de nuevas medicinas y la inversión a largo plazo”.

Gangte se teme lo peor para los seropositivos indios a los que representa. “De estos fármacos depende nuestra vida, que no debe estar a la venta". Según sus datos, más de seis millones de personas en el mundo dependen de los antirretrovirales genéricos indios.

 

http://sociedad.elpais.com/sociedad/2012/02/27/actualidad/1330371496_219551.html

 

 

Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma, left, talks with European Union Commissioner Kari De Gucht during a meeting in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. Gucht will attend the annual India-EU Summit scheduled for February 10. INDIA OUT Photo: AP / AP

Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma, left, talks with European Union Commissioner Kari De Gucht during a meeting in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. Gucht will attend the annual India-EU Summit scheduled for February 10. INDIA OUT Photo: AP / AP

      http://www.chron.com/business/article/India-s-global-pharmacy-role-threatened-by-EU-pact-3187086.php#photo-2372060

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A pharmacist near a tablet counting machine at a Cipla manufacturing unit on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, Thursday, Feb 9, 2012. Efforts by India and the European Union to strengthen trade are threatening India's ability to deliver life-saving medicines to the world's poorest, analysts say as the two sides resume protracted negotiations on a free-trade pact. Health industry workers and activists worry that India may bow to EU demands for strict intellectual property protections and investor guarantees, which could result in the slow poisoning of its own generic pharmaceutical industry. India's $26 billion drug industry has become an immense profit engine, growing at 15-25 percent a year _ but also a lifeline for millions of patients in poor countries, many in Africa, unable to pay sky-high Western prices to treat illnesses that include HIV, malaria, asthma and cancer. Photo: Rafiq Maqbool / AP

 

http://www.chron.com/business/article/India-s-global-pharmacy-role-threatened-by-EU-pact-3187086.php#photo-2372060

 

Pharmacists work in a lab where medicines are being produced at a Cipla manufacturing unit on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, Thursday, Feb 9, 2012. Efforts by India and the European Union to strengthen trade are threatening India's ability to deliver life-saving medicines to the world's poorest, analysts say as the two sides resume protracted negotiations on a free-trade pact. Health industry workers and activists worry that India may bow to EU demands for strict intellectual property protections and investor guarantees, which could result in the slow poisoning of its own generic pharmaceutical industry. India's $26 billion drug industry has become an immense profit engine, growing at 15-25 percent a year _ but also a lifeline for millions of patients in poor countries, many in Africa, unable to pay sky-high Western prices to treat illnesses that include HIV, malaria, asthma and cancer. Photo: Rafiq Maqbool / AP

Pharmacists work in a lab where medicines are being produced at a Cipla manufacturing unit on the outskirts of Mumbai, 

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Sarah Boseley's global health blog

 

 

Does EU/India free trade agreement spell the end of cheap drugs for poor countries?

After four years of negotiations, campaigners fear India is about to sign a trade deal with the EU which will stop the flow of cheap life-saving drugs to the developing world

Antiretrovial drugs to suppress the replication of HIV
Antiretrovial drugs to suppress the replication of HIV. Photograph: Corbis/Krista Kennell

They will be marching on the streets of Delhi today. Nearly 2,000 people are expected in a protest in which the European Union is cast as the villain, accused of endangering the lives of the poor. It's an unusual scenario and a complex issue, but in a nutshell, the concern is thatIndia's generic drug companies are going to be prevented by a new trade treaty from making medicines at rock-bottom prices for poor countries.

The trade negotiations between the EU and the Indian government have been going on for four long years, but finally a deal seems about to be done. And campaigners, who include Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontières as well as Unitaid, are deeply unhappy about it.

The hand of Big Pharma is detected behind this treaty. Indian generic companies have been able to undercut them massively, because India does not always recognise their patents. They have lobbied the EU to push for tighter rules in India on intellectual property. The result, say the campaigners, could be the end of some life-saving drugs at prices the developing world can afford. They reject EU assurances that drugs for the poorest will be safeguarded.

If they are right, it matters enormously. Millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa would likely now be dead or dying if it had not been for the cut-price Aids drugs manufactured in India. Competition from Cipla and other generic companies drove the prices down from $10,000 per person per year to around $100 today.

Dr Unni Karunakara, International President of MSF (this is a link to MSF's campaign) said:

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We have watched too many people die in places where we work because the medicines they need are too expensive. We cannot allow this trade deal to shut down the pharmacy of the developing world.

And this is from the open letter MSF has sent to India's prime minister, Mr Manmohan Singh:

MSF today relies overwhelmingly on affordable generic HIV/AIDS medicines produced in India to treat nearly 180,000 people in 20 countries, as well as using medicines from India to treat other diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. India has played a pivotal role in supplying affordable generic versions of drugs used throughout the developing world. It is vital therefore that further barriers are not created that threaten the supply of affordable generic medicines from India.

This is Oxfam policy advisor, Rohit Malpani (their statement here):

At a time of austerity and declining aid budgets, especially for health, efforts to increase medicine prices for the world's poor would be a double blow and have a devastating impact on the achievement of health related Millennium Development Goals.... If the EU succeeds in imposing strict IP rules upon the Indian Government, the massive hike in medicine prices could undermine European leadership to provide international aid for global health. Worryingly it could also debilitate donor programmes that provide access to treatment around the world.

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This is Philippe Douste-Blazy, Chair of UNITAID's Board (and here is a link to their document on the issue):

This agreement coincides with a delicate time for access to treatment efforts - the suspension of grants by the Global Fund and diminishing resources for health and development. I call on the European Union - with its long human rights tradition - to safeguard the right of millions of people in developing countries to continue accessing affordable life-saving medicines produced by the Indian generic industry.

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And finally, in an open letter to the citizens of Europe, the South African Treatment Action Campaign, which successfully won Aids drugs for Africa at affordable prices, makes this appeal:

We implore you, as citizens of the European Union, to stand with us against policies that are being pursued by your governments through the EU-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that will block our access to affordable medicines – putting our health and lives at risk....Ensuring that access to HIV medicines is protected is crucial to save lives and also reduce transmission of the virus. Last year, a landmark clinical trial showed that HIV treatment reduces by 96% the risk that the virus will be passed on. It is imperative that medicines remain available and affordable so that we can begin to turn the epidemic around.

The negotiations have been in secret, so we can't know the exact shape of the deal until it is done. But if the campaigners' fears are justified, the timing is terrible, when the effort to get more and better Aids drugs to people in epidemic countries is under strain because of disappearing funding. And, whether we are talking about drugs for HIV or other diseases, it is hard to believe that the health of the poorest people in the world will not suffer.

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/sarah-boseley-global-health/2012/feb/10/hiv-infection-pharmaceuticals-industry

 

Plastic containers holding medicines are packed and sealed at a Cipla manufacturing unit on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, Thursday, Feb 9, 2012. Efforts by India and the European Union to strengthen trade are threatening India's ability to deliver life-saving medicines to the world's poorest, analysts say as the two sides resume protracted negotiations on a free-trade pact. Health industry workers and activists worry that India may bow to EU demands for strict intellectual property protections and investor guarantees, which could result in the slow poisoning of its own generic pharmaceutical industry. India's $26 billion drug industry has become an immense profit engine, growing at 15-25 percent a year _ but also a lifeline for millions of patients in poor countries, many in Africa, unable to pay sky-high Western prices to treat illnesses that include HIV, malaria, asthma and cancer. Photo: Rafiq Maqbool / AP

Plastic containers holding medicines are packed and sealed at a Cipla manufacturing unit on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, Thursday, Feb 9, 2012. Efforts by India and the European Union to strengthen trade are threatening India's ability to deliver life-saving medicines to the world's poorest, analysts say as the two sides resume protracted negotiations on a free-trade pact. Health industry workers and activists worry that India may bow to EU demands for strict intellectual property protections and investor guarantees, which could result in the slow poisoning of its own generic pharmaceutical industry. India's $26 billion drug industry has become an immense profit engine, growing at 15-25 percent a year _ but also a lifeline for millions of patients in poor countries, many in Africa, unable to pay sky-high Western prices to treat illnesses that include HIV, malaria, asthma and cancer. Photo: Rafiq Maqbool / AP

 

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