DNA | Friday, March 19, 2010
Now Thailand object to India-EU free trade agreement
Priyanka Golikeri / DNA
Mumbai: As informal talks have started between India and Europe on the free trade agreement (FTA) in New Delhi since Monday, apprehensions over provisions that could impact early access to generic medicines are being voiced in Thailand.
Formal talks on the FTA would start in Brussels in April and India and EU have both expressed an explicit desire to sign the FTA by 2010.
India is a major supplier of key HIV/AIDS drugs such as efavirenz, and heat stable lopinavir/ritonavir to the National Health Security scheme of the Thai government, which ensures free access to treatment for all Thais.
Concerns expressed by Thais range from patent term extensions, data exclusivity, criminalisation of patents enforcement (see bullet points), said to be a part of the FTA, is heavily shrouded in secrecy, with the texts and content of the deal guarded from any parliamentary debate or discussion.
Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul, coordinator, health consumer protection programme, Chulalongkom University in Thailand said that India is the pharmacy of the developing world, particularly Thailand.
“Our local drug industry is not very strong and we rely on India to supply us with medicines. In particular, millions with HIV are able to lead a healthy life thanks to the antiretroviral drugs produced in India. Hence, any provision in the FTA which can hamper early entry of generics can affect patients not only in India, but also millions in the developing world,” he said.
According to Amit Sengupta, general secretary, All India Peoples Science Network, “India agreed to grant patents to medicines by signing Trips. Now with this FTA, EU is trying to force India to adopt higher standards of intellectual property. India has a moral and legal right to say no.”
Apart from Thailand, least developed countries such as Lesotho, buy nearly 95% of all anti-retrovirals from India.
International humanitarian aid organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres buy more than 80% of their AIDS drugs, and 25% of the drugs for malaria, TB, and antibiotics from India, said Leena Menghaney, project manager-India, Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.
Moreover, approximately 50% of essential medicines that Unicef distributes in developing countries come from India, while 75-80% of medicines distributed by International Dispensary Association are made in India.