India must balance between making affordable medicines available and encouraging pharma R&D
With non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer taking the centre-stage in low-income countries, governments and pharma companies must tailor their strategies accordingly. In India, NCDs are already responsible for more than 60% of all deaths. An ICRIER study notes that India could lose nearly $4.6 billion between 2012 and 2030 because of NCDs, with four top killers: cardiovascular diseases (26% of all deaths in 2014), chronic respiratory disease (13%), cancer (7%) and diabetes (2%). Given this backdrop, ICRIER contends that the US’s objections to India’s IPR regime for pharma—compulsory licensing and patent violations have been flagged—don’t hold much water.
Emerging economies’ spending on drugs is expected to grow by 10-13% between 2012 and 2017, as per The Economist, as opposed to developed economies’ 1-4%. So, while pharma companies need to attune themselves to regulation in countries like India, the latter need to focus on making effective treatment for NCDs available. This would call for measured application of IPR-indifferent policies like compulsory licensing, given its impacts on R&D for new drugs. ICRIER points out that though ‘Indian authorities have shown remarkable restraint and so far issued only a single compulsory license for Nexavar…. the perception has been perpetuated that India is willing to exercise the ability to issue compulsory licenses to ensure that these treatments are made affordable to Indian patient populations’. India must strike a balance between making affordable drugs available as well as promoting the development of new generation drugs.