India Moves Even More Of Its Healthcare Away From Western Pharma

from the why-pay-more? dept

A few years back, Techdirt noted that India had 16,000 licensed drug manufacturers in the 1990s, and became a net exporter of pharmaceutical products. Things changed somewhat when India joined the WTO, which forced it to recognize pharmaceutical patents, but more recently it has started moving back towards generics, notably with the compulsory licensing of a kidney and liver cancer drug that was being sold by Bayer in the country for around $70,000 a year.

Now India has made another bold move in the field of healthcare:

From city hospitals to tiny rural clinics, India’s public doctors will soon be able to prescribe free generic drugs to all comers, vastly expanding access to medicine in a country where public spending on health was just $4.50 per person last year.

The plan was quietly adopted last year but not publicized. Initial funding has been allocated in recent weeks, officials said.

Under the plan, doctors will be limited to a generics-only drug list and face punishment for prescribing branded medicines, a major disadvantage for pharmaceutical giants in one of the world’s fastest-growing drug markets.

That’s clearly going to have an immense effect on a country where 40% of the population live on $1.25 or less, meaning that paying for drugs is out of the question. The article quoted above estimates that 600 million people could take advantage of the scheme over the next five years.

But it will also have a major impact on the Western pharma companies, since it will effectively lock their products out of one of the two most important markets for the future. Combined with the compulsory licensing of more modern drugs, the latest move by India is deeply troubling for the world’s main drug companies. That’s reflected in both Bayer’s attempt to contest the compulsory licensing order, and USPTO deputy director Teresa Stanek Rea’s extraordinary claim that the move was in violation of TRIPS, clearly not the case.

India’s decision to adopt generics across its entire healthcare system also stands in stark contrast to provisions in TPP that will make it much harder for local manufacturers in signatory countries to produce generics legally. As a result, TPP looks more and more like an attempt to lock emerging countries into old and one-sided business models that are stacked against them.

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Comments on “India Moves Even More Of Its Healthcare Away From Western Pharma”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Under the plan, doctors will be limited to a generics-only drug list and face punishment for prescribing branded medicines

I am strongly in favour of plans like this one that increase access to medicines for people who can’t afford them at monopoly prices, but I am concerned that coercion of doctors is an overcorrection. Could that not be seen as anticompetitive in the other direction?

surfer (profile) says:

what if find ironic..

is all these Big Conglomerates, be it big pharma, big oil, big content.., they are stacking up an incredible amount of hashes in the lose column of late. with all their politicians bought and paid for, and still not getting their way, i would think they (being the lobbyist/shareholder/politician) would start to get annoyed at all the loss of money, being as greedy as they are.

what i found ironic was the fact that they are all being beaten with little to no expenditures on the part of the winners.. i like the direction, perhaps one inch at a time and we might just save this planet by moving into this century.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘As a result, TPP looks more and more like an attempt to lock emerging countries into old and one-sided business models that are stacked against them’

just like all similar bills/treaties/laws whatever you want to call them, it’s designed to do nothing but benefit the US and certain US industries. how the hell are people being paid less for a year than someone on minimum wage gets for a day, supposed to pay $70,000 for life preserving treatment? best of luck to India and anyone else that goes down the same road. at least it appears to be putting people first, which is more than can be said for the US where industries and profits take priority!

Anonymous Coward says:

The US needs to take this direction as well. One of the major costs viewed for the future is the baby boomers entering medicare. I don’t care who you are, $70,000 is outrageous just for A DRUG TREATMENT. Not to mention this is only one treatment of many, often with higher costs.

Our government is corrupt and bankrupting the country in the process.

Beech (profile) says:

I kind of understand that drug prices kind of have to be higher than you’d expect because although the marginal cost to produce them is low, the costs of development, testing, and approval are obscene and need to be made up for.

But that said, if $70k a treatment isn’t pure gouging I don’t know what is. Subsidizing new drugs is important, but there NEEDS to be a limit to how crazily high they can jack up the price.

Raj says:

Opportunity for big pharma

As with other IT industries, big pharma should simply start developing drugs in india itself! The win for them here would be lower-cost drug development. Of course, they have the power (and india has the need) to get an FDA equivalent that is much less anal than the US one is.

It might take longer for them to bring such drugs to the US market, but who cares? They create drugs in india, make their money here.

patent litigation (user link) says:

good news

I, for one, am heartened not only by the Indian Patent Office’s decision to grant a compulsory license, but also by the further news that India now has plans to distribute some life-saving drugs for free. That — and not gouging suffering patients at every possible opportunity — seems to me to be the epitome of corporate responsibility.

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