Decision On Generic Drugs Stalled Again

New Delhi, Aug 29: | Updated: Aug 30 2003, 05:30am hrs
A decision on the long over-due agreement on Trips & Public Health at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for allowing countries with insufficient manufacturing capacities access to cheap generic drugs has once again hit a road-block.

The compromise deal worked out by the US, Brazil, India, Kenya and South Africa on Wednesday and taken up by the General Council for approval late Thursday night was held up as some members including Argentina and Philippines said they wanted to make statements on their interpretations of the deal to ensure that they understood it correctly.

Reacting to the delay, commerce ministry additional secretary SN Menon said that India had no commercial interest in the Trips & Public Health agreement. The country only had a humanitarian interest and wanted the issue to be resolved soon.

Mr Menon said that it was important to ensure that the poorest and the most disadvantaged people had access to cheap medicines once the patent regime under the Trips Agreement came into force in January 2005.

Our job as a responsible government is to see that we are behind those in the Sub-Saharan countries where the poorest live and we need to support their need for low cost medicines, he said, speaking at a seminar organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The compromise deal worked out by the five countries has a number of provisions to ensure that the patented drugs being exported by non-patent holding manufacturers to countries with insufficient manufacturing capacities is not diverted into the markets of the developed countries.

The measures include product differentiation, establishment of insufficient production capacity by importing countries before the Trips Council and involvement of the manufacturers in fixing the royalty for patent holders.

With five important stakeholders getting together to thrash out the compromise formula, it was being hoped that the agreement which has been hanging fire for the last eight months would finally be in place.

However, it now seems that the issue would roll over to the fifth ministerial meet of the WTO to begin in Mexico in less than two weeks time.