Indian Firms under Pressure on Drug Patent Regime, as Global Majors Mount Lobbying

Article excerpt

New Delhi, Feb. 19 -- India is defending its patent regime more aggressively than ever before from attacks in the US that have come to define the state of ties between the two countries lately.

The first sign of this came at a US International Trade Commission hearing last week with a telling push-back from trade bodies from India.

They were supported by activists such as Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders), that have historically supported easy access to medicines, and US academics.

Together, they told the sixmember commission conducting the hearing that India was in compliance with world patent regime - Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS - or else someone would have dragged it to the WTO.

"Go for evidence based assessment and not perception-based (assessment)," Dilip Shah, director-general of Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, told the commission.

India has decided to not appear before US bodies as a sovereignty issue.

US companies have been campaigning for tougher action against India alleging it was denying and violating world patent rules - TRIPS - specially in the pharmaceutical sector.

"It is not surprising that India is ranked at the bottom of the pile along with Ukraine," said Ranjit Shahani of Novartis, whose cancer drug Glivec was denied a patent in 2013.

Glivec and German major Bayer's Nexavar (another cancer drug), which India compulsorily licensed out to a local maker in 2012, drive the case against India.

At stake for the drug industry, however, is not just the Indian market - expected to be worth $55 billion by 2020, second only to the US in volumes - but other emerging markets. …