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.
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.