Describing India’s pharmaceutical sector a vital life-line for millions of people in developing countries, an international relief organisation today called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to cave in to corporate pressure and support people’s access to generic medicines to combat deadly diseases like AIDS.
“Doctors Without Borders (MSF) urges the Indian government to safeguard its role in supplying affordable, generic medicines to millions of people in South Africa and the rest of the continent,” said Claire Waterhouse, MSF Access Campaign Advocacy Officer in Southern Africa.
“Today, India faces immense pressure from the United States and its multinational pharmaceutical corporations lobby to roll back its pro-public health patent rules that put people above corporate profits.
“If India caves in to this pressure, the results could be devastating for South Africans, millions of people across Africa and other developing countries, and it risks unleashing monopolistic practices that price medicines beyond reach.”
MSF urged Modi to defend India’s lifeline to South Africa and developing countries through affordable versions of new medicines.
“India should reject efforts that undermine, weaken or eliminate critically-important public health safeguards from its laws,” Waterhouse said.
“Medicines from India have enabled MSF, government and other treatment providers to dramatically scale up HIV treatment access in South Africa. India’s global pharmacy also has an important role to play in providing affordable prices for newer medicines for TB, hepatitis and other devastating diseases.”
Waterhouse said that South Africa was currently reforming its own patent laws to better balance private commercial interests with public health priorities, with India’s progressive laws being seen as the model in this regard.
“Our patients’ lives depend on the Indian and the South African governments holding the line against drug corporations who seek to expand their profits at the expense of people’s health,” said Amir Shroufi, MSF medical coordinator in South Africa.
“Medicines made in India are a vital lifeline for MSF’s medical humanitarian operations and millions of people in developing countries.”
At the third India-Africa Summit held in New Delhi last October, India and the member states of the African Union agreed to cooperate on ensuring access to affordable medicines, and to foster innovation that addresses public health needs of developing countries.
“Fifteen years ago, South Africa stood up against pressure from 39 drug corporations to block access to more affordable HIV medicines at a time when the epidemic was spiralling out of control in the country.
“We hope to see strong resolve from Prime Minister Modi today against corporate pressure and in support of millions of people’s access to their medicines,” Waterhouse concluded.